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READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 



Merciful Lord, we beseech, thee to cast thy bright beams 
of light upon thy Church, that it, being enlightened by 
the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint 
John, may so walk in the light of thy truth that it may 
at length attain to the light of everlasting life ; through 
Jesus Christ our Lord. 



READINGS 

IN 

ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

(FIRST AND SECOND SERIES) 


WILLIAM TEMPLE 



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED 
ST. MARTIN’S STREET, LONDON 
1947 



COPYRIGHT 


Chapters I-XII, first published 1939 
„ XIII-XXI, „ „ 1940 

Complete Edition 1945 
Reprinted 1947 


PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN 



TO 

THE MEMORY OF 


JOHN LEOFRIC STOCKS 



PREFACE TO FIRST SERIES 

The purpose of this book is explained in the Introduc- 
tion. Here it is only necessary to say that for as long 
as I can remember I have had more love for St. John’s 
Gospel than for any other book. Bishop Gore once 
said to me that he paid visits to St. John as to a fasci- 
nating foreign country, but he came home to St. Paul. 
With me the precise opposite is true. St. Paul is the 
exciting, and also rather bewildering, adventure; with 
St. John I am at home. 

Among commentators my main debt is to Bishop 
Westcott and Archbishop Bernard; I also owe much 
to E. F. Scott’s The Fourth Gospel, its Purpose and 
Theology ; to Bishop Lloyd’s The Life according to St. 

\ 'John , to Scott Holland’s The Philosophy of Faith and 
the Fourth Gospel, and to Canon Raven’s Jesus and the 
Gospel of Love. Also at several points I am conscious 
of expressing thoughts first implanted in my mind by 
Bishop Palmer when he was Chaplain at Balliol and I 
was an undergraduate; but I must not put upon him 
responsibility for what the seeds sown by him have 
grown to be. 

I wish to thank Canon A. E. Baker who has read 
the proofs and made many valuable suggestions, Miss 
Joan Hughes, who typed a great part of the manuscript, 
and especially my wife, who has read most of the 
typescript and enabled me to make numerous im- 
provements. 

WILLIAM EBOR: 

Bishopthorpe, York 
December 1938 


vi 



PREFACE TO SECOND SERIES 


This Second Series of Readings in St. John's Gospel 
includes all the chapters after that with which the 
First Series closed. I need not here repeat my ex- 
pression of indebtedness to commentators and other 
writers. The same authors have been my chief guides. 

For the convenience of those who read this Series 
without having read the First Series, the Introduction 
to the whole is reprinted in this volume. 

But I must renew my thanks to Canon Baker who 
has once more read all the proofs, and to my wife 
who has read the whole in typescript and has helped 
me with many suggestions for making clearer the 
movement of thought. I also want to thank Miss 
Howell-Thomas who typed almost the whole of the 
manuscript. 

WILLIAM EBOR: 


Bishopthorpe, York 
October 1939 



rii 



CONTENTS 


PAGE 


PROLOGUE, I, 1-18 . 


m 

' * 

3 

ACT I 

(I, II, III, IV AND 
Chapter I, iq-end 

VI) 



21 

Chapter II 


. 


33 

Chapter III 


. 


43 

Chapter IV 


* 


57 

Chapter VI 


• 


73 

ACT II 

Chapters V and VII, 15-24 . 




105 

Chapters VII and VIII 

• 


. 

123 

Chapters IX and X * 

« 


* 

153 

Chapter XI 

, 


• 

*75 

Chapter XII , 

• 


• 

188 

ACT III 

Chapters XIII and XIV 


• 

« 

207 

Chapters XV, XVI and XVII 

*• 

• 

• 

250 

ACT IV 

Chapters XVIII and XIX . 

• 


* 

335 

ACT V 

Chapter XX 

$ 

« 

• 

375 

EPILOGUE 

Chapter XXI . 


* 

« 

397 

viii 



INTRODUCTION 


This book is not a systematic commentary or exposi- 
tion; nor is it intended for scholars or theologians — 
though whatever value it has for souls on pilgrimage 
may be as real for them as for others. Again, it is not 
a series of devotional meditations, though it contains 
some of these. It has no distinctive and consistent 
character. But it is an attempt to share with any who 
read it what I find to be my own thoughts as I read 
the profoundest of all writings. 

Consequently it is not chiefly concerned with the 
question what the writer consciously intended, though 
of course that question frequently arises; nor again 
with the question how much of what is here set down 
has its origin in the deeds and words of the Lord 
Jesus when on earth, though of that something is said 
later in this Introduction. I am chiefly concerned with 
what arises in my mind and spirit as I read; and I 
hope this is not totally different from saying that I am 
concerned with what the Holy Spirit says to me through 
the Gospel. 

This is always a legitimate way to read the Bible, 
and religiously the most important. For the Word of 
God does not consist of printed propositions; it is 
living; it is personal; it is Jesus Christ. That living 
Word of God speaks to us through the printed words 
of Scripture; and all our study of those printed words 
helps us to receive it. But the point of vital import- 
ance is the utterance of the Divine Word to the. 
soul, the self-communication of the Father to His 
children. The Fourth Gospel is written with full 
consciousness of that truth, and so a method, always 
legitimate and always spiritually valuable, is here almost 
obligatory. Why this should be so will become clear as 

ix 



X READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

we consider the questions of authorship and historical 
reliability so far as it is relevant to these “ readings ” 
to do so. 

Authorship 

It would be quite out of place to discuss in this 
Introduction the vexed question of the authorship of 
the Fourth Gospel. The literature of the subject is 
immense. But it is relevant to set down without argu- 
ment what my own limited study of the question has 
led me to believe. 

First, I regard as self-condemned any theory which 
fails to find a very close connexion between the Gospel 
and John the son of Zebedee. The combination 
of external and internal evidence is overwhelming on 
this point. For the external evidence reference may 
be made to Westcott’s classical commentary, and, for 
the internal evidence, to that and to Scott Holland’s 
brilliant lectures . 1 Scott Holland conclusively proves 
(as I think) the Apostolic authority of the Gospel. 
Until recently I held that the balance of evidence was 
in favour of Westcott’s view that John the Apostle 
actually dictated the book. But the references to John 
the Elder, as some one distinct from the Apostle, can- 
not be set aside, and the view which now seems to me 
to do fullest justice to the evidence is that the writer — 
the Evangelist — is John the Elder, who was an 
intimate disciple of John the Apostle; that he records 
the teaching of that Apostle with great fidelity; that 
the Apostle is the “ Witness ”, to whom reference is 
sometimes made, and is also the “ disciple whom 
Jesus loved ”. 

It may be that the Apostle actually dictated to the 
Elder parts of what now constitutes the Gospel; I 
incline to think so; but parts are the Elder’s own 
recollection of the Apostle’s teaching and parts are his 
own comment. By adopting this view we can recognise 

1 The Fourth Gospel 



INTRODUCTION 


xi 


that the author of the First Epistle is also the actual 
writer of the Fourth Gospel, while also admitting the 
differences to which Professor Dodd and others have 
called attention. The Epistles are the work of John 
the Elder in every sense of the words. They exhibit 
a smaller vocabulary, and in some respects a more 
crystallised outlook and greater tendency to definition, 
than the Gospel of which the Elder is the writer but 
the Apostle is the true author. 

It is not possible to say which sections of the Gospel 
come direct from the Apostle; but I am sure that we 
are nearer the truth in maximising than in minimising 
these. 

Historical Reliability 
(i) As regards the Course of Events 

There is a marked contrast between the outline of 
the Gospel story as recorded by the Synoptists and 
the outline presented by St. John. The events of the 
Synoptic narrative, until the Triumphal Entry, take 
place mainly in Galilee or on the journey from Galilee 
to Jerusalem; the events of the Johannine narrative 
take place mainly in Jerusalem. The Synoptic nar- 
rative appears to occupy one year only; the Johannine 
covers three Passovers (ii, 13; v, 1; xii, 1). The 
dates given for the Last Supper and the Crucifixion 
are apparently different. These and other such con- 
siderations have led many in the past to throw doubt 
on the reliability of the Fourth Gospel. But closer 
study leads to a different conclusion. For the fact is 
that the Synoptists provide no chronology of the 
ministry at all until the last week; we do not have to 
choose between two incompatible chronologies for the 
Johannine chronology is the only one that we have. 
Further, the Synoptic narrative is unintelligible unless 
something like the Johannine story is accepted. How 
was it possible for the Lord to plan the preparations 



xii READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

for the Triumphal Entry and for the Last Supper if 
He had never been to Jerusalem since boyhood, or 
had had no opportunity of gaining adherents there? 
What is meant by the bitter cry over the city “ How 
often would I have gathered thy children! ” (St. Mat- 
thew xxiii, 37; St. Luke xiii, 34) unless there had been 
missionary enterprises in it on more occasions than one? 

Modern commentators mostly accept the Johannine 
dates for the Last Supper and Crucifixion, on general 
grounds of probability. The Synoptists retain a recol- 
lection of this date in the saying attributed to the 
Chief Priests, “ Not on the feast day, lest there be an 
uproar among the people ”, which harmonises ill with 
their record of an arrest apparently carried out on the 
feast day itself. 1 St. John put the arrest earlier, so 
that the Lord was condemned and crucified on the 
Day of Preparation, the day on which the Paschal 
Lamb was killed ; and then, of course, the Last Supper 
was not the actual Passover, but rather a fellowship 
meal with evident paschal associations. 

Moreover it is well to remember that where there 
is a divergence between the Synoptists and St. John, 
it is not a case of three witnesses against one; for in 
this respect St. Mark governs the Synoptic tradition; 
the first and third Gospels rely on the second for such 
a framework of order as they display. The divergence 
then is between the Second Gospel and the Fourth. 
Now St. Mark wrote his recollection of the teaching 
and preaching of St. Peter, and the scheme of his 
Gospel may be represented by saying that it is a 
narrative of the Passion with an introduction. If we 
accept this, and also recognise that St. Mark does not 
even purport to provide a chronological scheme, we 
must agree that the evidence to be set against the very 
clear and full chronological scheme provided by St. 
John is negligible. 

1 But the Synoptists are not explicit as regards the date, and it is possible 
to interpret them as agreeing with St. John. 



INTRODUCTION 


Xlll 


We have thus disposed of the main ground for 
questioning the historical reliability of the Fourth 
Gospel as a record of events. 1 But it may still be 
asked how far the author is really concerned with 
historical facts. He plainly avows his motive in xx, 3 1 . 
He does not profess to give a complete record; he 
selects from among abundant material; and he does 
this with a deliberate purpose: “ these are written that 
ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, 
and that believing ye may have life in his name 

It is no doubt true that St, John selects his chosen 
events for record because of their significance ; but it is 
essential for his purpose that the significant occasion 
should also be an event. If the whole story is a myth 
its quality as revelation is destroyed. The Gospel is 
that “ the Word was made flesh ”, and being incarnate 
so spoke, so acted, so died and so rose from death. It 
is not the mere occurrence of its several episodes that 
constitutes the Gospel; it is their spiritual and eternal 
significance; but part of their spiritual and eternal 
significance is their physical and temporal occurrence. 
For it is the whole world, inclusive of matter — of 
flesh and blood — which God so loved that He gave 
His only begotten Son. 

It is then vital to St. John’s purpose that the events 
which he records should be actual events. We can be 
quite sure that he never consciously wrote what he 
did not believe to be fact; he is not a constructor of 
allegories. And we have already seen reason for think- 
ing that the very points which have led some to doubt 
his reliability as a witness are in fact grounds for con- 
fidence in it. We shall read the Gospel as valid history 
so far as its record of events is concerned. 

(2) As regards the Discourses 
Can the same confidence be placed in the record 

1 About the special problem presented by the Raising of Lazarus some- 
thing will be said when that point of the narrative is reached. See p. 175. 



xiv READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

of our Lord’s discourses, which fills so large a part of 
the whole Gospel? The answer to that question calls 
for some preliminary reflections. 

( a ) The discourses recorded in the Synoptic Gospels 
are mostly such as were delivered to “ the multitudes ” 
or to the local religious leaders in Galilee. Those re- 
corded in the Fourth Gospel are mostly such as were 
delivered in controversy with the religious leaders in 
Jerusalem, or in intimate converse with the inner group 
of the disciples. It is natural that there should be a 
broad difference alike of subject-matter and of manner. 

( b ) The consideration just mentioned goes far to 
account for the note of sharper division and even of 
harshness in the Johannine account — as for example 
in Chapter VIII. But much depends on the way in 
which the crucial passages are read. For example, the 
stern words about the spiritual paternity of “ the 
Jews” in viii, 31-47 can be, and should be, read in 
the tone of sad recognition of a fact, not of personal 
irritation. I see no reason here to doubt that the Lord 
really spoke very much as is recorded. 

(c) It is in the light of these considerations that we 
may meet the complaint that in this Gospel the Lord is 
presented as self-assertive. Certainly we must admit 
that if the claims which He here makes are not true 
they are intolerably arrogant. If He is a very good 
man completely surrendered to the Spirit of God, He 
cannot, without offence, speak as the Johannine Christ 
speaks. But if He is God come in the flesh He not 
only may, He must proclaim Himself as the fount 
of salvation. Love, not self-concern, demands that He 
should call men to Himself as alone the revelation of 
the Father. At the same time it is appropriate that 
He should do this either when He is expressly chal- 
lenged, as the religious leaders at Jerusalem challenged 
Him, or in conversation with His intimate disciples; 
and it is precisely in these circumstances that the 
Fourth Gospel presents Him as making these claims. 



INTRODUCTION 


xv 


They are not altogether absent from the Synoptic nar- 
rative, but they are naturally less prominent in that 
record of ministry among the Galilean fisher-folk and 
peasants. 

If, when all is said, any still feel a trace of self- 
assertion in the sense which involves moral defect, it 
may be held that the Evangelist has imported into his 
record of what the Lord said some of his own devoted 
eagerness. But I find no reason for recourse to such a 
plea. Those who admit, and wish to proclaim, all that 
the Lord is here represented as saying about Himself, 
will feel gratitude, not resentment, that the words are 
recorded; those who do not admit their truth are 
bound to resent, or at least to regret, their presence in 
this profoundly sympathetic presentation of the Lord. 

( d ) What is meant by the question “ Did the Lord 
say this? ” The word “ say ” is not so simple as it 
looks. It may mean the utterance of certain sounds; 
it may mean the conveyance of certain meanings. If 
we take it in the former sense no doubt the Synoptists 
are the more accurate recorders of what they narrate; 
if we take it in the latter sense I should claim that St. 
John is the more accurate recorder. 

It is commonly found that those sermons which 
most profoundly stir their hearers are comparatively 
insipid when read “ in cold print ” ; and those which 
are most moving to read were comparatively ineffectual 
in delivery. The atmosphere of conviction generated 
by the great preacher is due to his whole personality 
rather than to the words used, and the sermons for 
which we are most grateful are those which help us to 
believe vitally what we knew quite well before the 
sermon started. My father, who was described by one 
who knew him as “ granite on fire ” and was certainly 
never regarded as sentimental, could not speak of the 
love of God without tears. His Good Friday sermons 
are still stirring to read; but they are not what they 
were to those who felt, as they listened, the impact of 



xvi READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

his passionate conviction. The exact record of the 
words spoken cannot carry that; but a great artist 
might do much to convey it, and, by re-writing the 
sermon, give a truer record of it. 

Let us take another illustration. A good photo- 
graph is vastly preferable to a bad portrait. But the 
great portrait painter may give a representation of a 
man which no photographer can emulate. And he 
does it by drawing what is not at any moment altogether 
actual. The Synoptists may give us something more 
like the perfect photograph; St. John gives us the 
more perfect portrait. 

And he does this, as every artist must, by letting 
his mind and his subject interpenetrate one another 
and then expressing the result. We are not likely of 
ourselves to come closer to the Lord by exercising our 
coarse faculties upon the more exact record of words 
spoken and deeds done than by entering into com- 
munion of thought and feeling with the mind of that 
disciple who lay “ breast to breast with God ”. 

There is a truth of general import which is relevant 
here. Christ wrote no book; he left in the world as 
His witness a “ body ” of men and women upon whom 
His Spirit came. There was to be nothing stereotyped. 
The living society — the Church — was to be the 
primary witness. The Gospels were written by 
members of the Church for their fellow-members, and 
each is “ The Gospel according to ” somebody. What 
reaches us is never a certified record but always a 
personal impression. Thus our concern is always with 
the Christ of faith, not with some supposed different 
Jesus of history. It is by the faith of others that our 
faith is kindled, even when that other is a Synoptic 
Evangelist. And this is true to the whole purpose and 
method of Christ in His mission. Had it been other- 
wise, the movement of the Spirit might have been 
fettered ; but now it is free. Yet in the wisdom of God 
there come to us two kinds of personal impression — 



INTRODUCTION xvii 

both that which is more akin to the photograph and 
that which is more akin to the portrait. And each 
illuminates the other. 

(<?) Because St. John is the portrait-painter, con- 
sciously submitting his mind to be interpenetrated by 
his subject, and then giving forth what his mind 
contains, he is not careful to distinguish between what 
the Lord historically “ said ” and what that saying has 
come to mean for him in his lifelong meditation. 

What first were guessed as points, I now knew stars. 

And named them in the Gospel I have writ. 

So speaks St. John in Browning’s poem A Death in the 
Desert , which remains the most penetrating interpreta- 
tion of St. John that exists in the English language. 

Thus a historical conversation may be coloured by 
a later experience, as in iv, 38 where the words “ I 
sent you to reap that whereon ye have not laboured ” 
refers rather to later experience than to a mission 
already launched at the time of the conversation with 
the Woman of Samaria. It is important to remember 
that the convention of historical writing in the ancient 
world approved the attribution to leading personages of 
speeches expressing what was known to be their view 
in a form which is due to the historian. In such com- 
positions key-phrases actually spoken would naturally 
be recorded. 

We may sometimes feel sure that this saying or 
that was uttered by the Lord as it is recorded; but it 
would be, I think, a mistake to look for original and 
authentic utterances as each the nucleus of a discourse. 
It is Jesus who speaks — Jesus who is “ the same 
yesterday and to-day and for ever ” — whether in the 
flesh or in the experience of His beloved disciple. 
And we have to remember that when St. John records 
a promise made by our Lord he does so not only 
because the promise was made but because it is ful- 
filled. When St. John records the words “ I will not 

b 



xviii READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

leave you desolate; I come to you ” (xiv, 1 6) their 
value is not only that this, or something fairly repre- 
sented by this, -was uttered, but that the thing described 
has happened. 

' This fusion of the purely historical with the 
spiritual is part of the character and meaning of this 
Gospel, which is not purely historical, nor in the proper 
sense mystical, but in the completest possible degree 
sacramental. Each conversation or discourse con- 
tained in the Gospel actually took place. But it is so 
reported as to convey, not only the sounds uttered 
or the meaning then apprehended, but the meaning 
which, always there, has been disclosed by lifelong 
meditation. Thus I am convinced that conversations 
with Nicodemus and with a Samaritan woman at 
Jacob’s Well actually occurred, and followed sub- 
stantially the course of our record. But the record, 
while obviously condensing the original by reducing 
it to its own analysis or synopsis, yet presents it in the 
literary style of the Evangelist rather than of the Lord. 
It is worthy of notice, incidentally, that the conversa- 
tion with Nicodemus, having been heard by the 
Beloved Disciple, has become part of his own experi- 
ence, and therefore passes over into comment at a quite 
uncertain point, whereas the conversation with the 
Woman of Samaria, of which the Lord Himself must 
(one supposes) have given the digest to the disciples on 
their return, appears without any appended comment. 

So, to take another illustration, I am sure that the 
Lord said, as they crossed the Temple Court with the 
Golden Vine full in view, “ I am the true Vine ” 
(xv, i). This carries within it, by implication, all that 
follows. But when later He is recorded as also saying 
“ Apart from me ye can do nothing ” (xv, y) this is a 
record as much of the disciples’ experience as of the 
Lord’s utterance: but it is the record not only of an 
empirical impotence, but of a divine assurance, like 
that which came to St. Paul — “ My grace is sufficient 



INTRODUCTION 


xix 


for thee; for my power is made perfect in weakness ” 
(II Corinthians xii, 9). 

Thus, by the passage of the old remembered words 
and deeds through the experience, thought and adoring 
love of the disciple, we are helped to a knowledge of 
Christ which is not “ after the flesh ” but “ after the 
spirit ” (II Corinthians v, 1 6). In the historical life we 
behold the eternal glory. 

We shall read the Gospel, then, in order to enter 
into the Evangelist’s and the Beloved Disciple’s com- 
munion with the Lord, not asking at each point pre- 
cisely what was spoken or done, but knowing that as 
we share the experience, historical and spiritual, from 
which the Gospel flows we shall come nearer to the 
heart and mind of Jesus our Lord than ever our own 
minds could bring us by meditation upon the precise 
words that He uttered. 

(J) The same reason which leads St. John to record 
the words of the Lord in the form expressive of their 
significance as that has become clear to him permits 
him also, as we have noticed, to pass from the record 
to his own comment upon it without any indication of 
the transition. There is a clear instance of this in 
Chapter III after the conversation with Nicodemus. I 
do not think this calls for any further discussion here, 
but consonantly with what has already been said, I 
think we are wise to regard all that we can as utterance 
of the Lord in the sense described, and to put the point 
of transition to comment on the part of either the 
Beloved Disciple (the Witness) or the Evangelist as 
late in the text as possible. 

Some General Considerations 

(1) The Gospel is through and through Palestinian. 
The notion that it is in any sense Hellenistic is contrary 
to its whole tenour. It is set in all the vivid concrete 
scenery of the actual Ministry in Palestine. What 



XX READINGS IN ST, JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Hellenist could, or would, have written Chapter IX? 
And this is no more than a specially clear instance of 
an all-pervasive character. The whole idea of a Hel- 
lenistic quality comes from the Prologue. But this, 
too, is essentially Jewish, though the term “ Logos ” 
is used in its Hellenistic as well as its Jewish sense, 
as a medium of interpretation to the Greek-speaking 
people of Ephesus. The Prologue bears evident traces 
of a mind accustomed to think in Aramaic, even if we 
consider that Dr. Burney failed to establish the case 
for an Aramaic original afterwards translated into 
Greek. After the close of the Prologue the term Logos 
does not recur. The thought which it was used to 
introduce — that the historical life and death and 
resurrection of Jesus Christ is a self-utterance of the 
Eternal God, so that in the temporal event we behold 
the eternal reality — governs the whole Gospel. But 
this is neither Jewish nor Greek; it is specifically 
Christian. A partly Greek term was used to introduce 
this truth to minds formed by Greek culture, and was 
then used no more. With St. John as truly as with 
St. Mark we accompany the Lord in Galilee and in 
Jerusalem, and breathe the air of Palestine. 

(2) In the proper sense of the word “ mystical ”, 
as signifying a direct apprehension of God by the 
human mind, St. John is strongly anti-mystical. But 
he is even more strongly sacramental. He is emphatic 
that “ no man hath beheld God at any time ” (i, 18); 1 
that saying repudiates the essentially mystical experi- 
ence; but he is equally emphatic that “ God only 
begotten hath declared him ”. In the great affirma- 
tion that “ the Word became flesh and we beheld his 
glory ” (i, 1 4) is implicit a whole theory of the relation 
between spirit and matter. Christianity is the most 
materialistic of all great religions. The others hope to 
achieve spiritual reality by ignoring matter — calling 

1 The possibility that these words only mean that God is invisible is 
ruled out by vi, 46, where there cannot be any reference to physical vision. 



INTRODUCTION 


xxi 


it illusion (may a) or saying that it does not exist; the 
result is a failure to control the physical side of life, a 
lofty religious philosophy side by side with sensual in- 
dulgence, not indeed in the same persons but in the 
same religious tradition. Christianity, based as it is 
on the Incarnation, regards matter as destined to be 
the vehicle and instrument of spirit, and spirit as fully 
actual so far as it controls and directs matter. 

Thus the appointed Sacraments of the Church are 
not something unrelated to all other human experience ; 
some have wished to treat them so, with a view to a 
greater reverence for them; but the result is an inclina- 
tion towards magic, and an evisceration of the Sacra- 
ments by elimination of their ethical content. The 
Sacraments of the Church are appointed means of 
grace wherein the Lord of the Church makes use, 
for His central purpose, of the character implanted 
by Him in the constitution of the universe as a 
whole. They represent and focus a principle at work 
far beyond themselves. It is no accident that the dis- 
courses in the Fourth Gospel which contain references 
to Baptism and the Eucharist are recorded in com- 
plete detachment from the practice or institution of 
either. 

(3) One marked characteristic of the mind of the 
Evangelist, or of the Beloved Disciple, is worth men- 
tion. He often records argument in debate, but he 
does not argue from premises to conclusions as a 
method of apprehending truth. Rather he puts 
together the various constituent parts of truth and 
contemplates them in their relations to one another. 
Thus he seems to say “ look at A; now look at B; 
now at A B; now at C; now at B C; now at AC; 
now at D and E; now at A B E; now at C E ”, and 
so on in any variety of combination that facilitates new 
insight. It is the method of artistic, as distinct from 
scientific, apprehension, and is appropriate to truth 
which is in no way dependent on, or derived from, : 



xxii READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

other truth, but makes its own direct appeal to reason, 
heart and conscience. 

The Johannine and Synoptist Picture 
of Christ 

A Gospel is essentially a proclamation of the good 
news concerning God and His Kingdom which is 
offered to men in Christ, in whom “ God hath visited 
and redeemed his people The question of greatest 
importance that can be asked concerning it is this : Is 
it the true picture of Christ? 

It has been said that the picture in the Synoptic 
Gospels and the picture in the Fourth Gospel are in- 
compatible, and that we have to choose between them. 
So far as this contention is based on difference in the 
record of facts, or on the matter or manner of the 
Lord’s speech, we have dealt with it already. Broadly 
speaking, there is no incompatibility in the record of 
facts, though there are some points at which adjust- 
ment is difficult — e.g. the Cleansing of the Temple — 
and one, the Raising of Lazarus, where it is supremely 
difficult. Something will be said of these in their own 
place. But, speaking generally, the truth is that the 
Synoptic narrative is unintelligible without the nar- 
rative of St. John. Far from being incompatible with 
the former the latter is necessary to it. 

As regards the “ style ” of the discourses, the 
character of the Johannine record has been discussed. 
No one suggests that a phonographic record would 
have retained from the utterance of the Lord the sounds 
which we make as we read the Fourth Gospel aloud, or 
even their Aramaic counterpart. What is maintained 
is that the themes were actually handled by the Lord, 
and that this Gospel gives to us what His utterance 
was afterwards known to have contained. 

This gives rise to one special source of complexity. 



INTRODUCTION xxiii 

The relation of the Beloved Disciple or of the Evan- 
gelist to the Lord was at the date of dictation or of 
writing that of a worshipper to his God. This, too, is 
read back into the old story. It depicts the disciples as 
conscious of His Messiahship and His Deity, because 
they are now conscious of it, and the spiritual meaning 
of what was said in Jerusalem or Galilee is partly 
derived from the divine status of the Speaker. And 
this has probably coloured, as later experience has 
throughout coloured, the form given to the utterance. 
Our generation, with its eagerness to get back to 
“ what actually happened ” should begin with the 
Synoptic narrative, and there watch the dawn and 
growth of apprehension. But “ what actually hap- 
pened ” is not — was not — the real occurrence, for it 
did not of itself disclose the supremely important fact 
that the words were spoken and the deeds done by God 
Incarnate. So the Fourth Gospel brings us nearer to 
the reality — ■ the “ substance ” — of what happened. 

History is always involved in ambiguity at this 
point, because fact and interpretation cannot be dis- 
entangled. If I say “ Charles Stuart was executed ”, 
that is true, but not the whole truth. I add something 
if I say “ King Charles I was executed ”. I add a good 
deal more if I say “ King Charles I was martyred ”. 
The new term is interpretative; but if the interpreta- 
tion is true the statement is historically true. Yet it 
requires other than historical categories to justify it. 

So if it had been said to the shepherds “ A baby is 
born in Bethlehem ” it would have been true, but 
only part of the truth. If it had been said “ A baby 
is born who will be called Jesus by divine command ” 
that also would have been true, and evidence for what 
was understood to be a divine command would have 
been available. Such evidence could never amount to 
historical proof that God gave that command; but if 
He did, that, too, is historical fact. The statement “To 
you is born a Saviour which is Christ the Lord ” uses 



xxiv READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

categories of which History knows nothing; yet if it 
is true at all, it is historically true. 

It is in an analogous manner that the Fourth Gospel 
leads us to the heart of facts whose merely “ actual ” 
aspect did not fully exhibit this full reality. 

But the question is raised on deeper grounds. 
When all is allowed for. Is the Johannine Christ the 
same person as the Synoptic Christ? Has He the same 
outlook on the world? Has He the same conception 
of His own relation to God? and of His mission in 
the world? 

Two prejudices have in the past obscured this 
question. In the later nineteenth century there was 
a tendency to suppose that “ the Jesus of History ” 
must have been a purely human and non-supernatural 
person ; and this was believed in spite of the fact that, 
admittedly, the earliest of the four Gospels, St. Mark’s, 
is crowded with miracles. It was held that the simple 
preacher of love towards God and man could be dis- 
cerned behind the Marcan, Lucan and Matthaean nar- 
ratives. (Why anyone should have troubled to crucify 
the Christ of Liberal Protestantism has always been a 
mystery.) But this view is now almost everywhere 
abandoned. It is now recognised that the only Christ 
for whose existence there is any evidence at all is a 
miraculous Figure making stupendous claims. These 
would naturally be less prominent in narratives of the 
Galilean ministry than in a narrative of controversy 
with the ecclesiastical leaders in Jerusalem. But they 
are there, and from the earliest and best of our strands 
of evidence — the document or tradition on which the 
First and Third Gospels draw, commonly called Q — 
comes a saying purely “ Johannine ” in quality: “ All 
things have been delivered unto me of my Father; 
and no one knoweth the Son save the Father, neither 
doth any know the Father save the Son, and he to 
whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him ” (St. Mat- 
thew xi, 27; cf. St. Luke x, 22). 


INTRODUCTION 


XXV 


The other prejudice dies harder. It is to the effect 
that the Lord was deeply affected by an “ apocalyptic ” 
outlook, and anticipated His own return in glory at an 
early though unknown date. This, it is urged, is the 
Synoptic picture; and the situation disclosed in the 
early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles corresponds to 
this. On the other hand, St. John, writing when the 
great transition in thought had been effected and there 
was no longer expectation of an early “ return ”, sub- 
stitutes the discourse on the coming of the Paraclete 
for the apocalypse of St. Mark xiii and the correspond- 
ing passages in St. Matthew and St. Luke. It is 
recognised that St. John has an outlook peculiar among 
writers of the New Testament, though the later 
Pauline Epistles approach it. This finds its focus in 
the conviction that the divine glory, which we behold 
throughout the life of Christ, is most fully expressed 
in His Passion. But this is commonly regarded as 
part of a profound readjustment of thought in the 
light of the fuller experience of the Church. 

We must candidly admit that the view thus traced 
to the Synoptists is certainly that at which the Apostles 
had arrived at the time of the speeches recorded in the 
Acts of the Apostles as having been made by St. Peter 
on the feast of Pentecost and in the immediately fol- 
lowing period. It represents what the first disciples 
at that date supposed the Lord to have said and meant. 
None the less I maintain that the Synoptic record 
itself discloses as the real mind of the Lord what 
St. John first makes clear. St. Peter and St. Mark 
probably held the outlook which these critics attribute 
both to them and to the Lord Himself; yet their 
reproduction of His own teaching shows that they had 
not fully understood Him, and that He was in historical 
fact what St. John for the first time set forth. 

Every great man is greater than his followers at 
first appreciate; it is posterity by which he is truly 
understood. And every original genius is hampered 



xxvi READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

by the terms which contemporary language offers as 
the necessary and sole medium of his self-expression. 
He must take the best terms available, and trust that 
his special use of them will gradually correct the sug- 
gestions attaching to them, which are alien from his 
thought, until at last he has imposed his own meaning 
on them. So the Lord used the language of apoca- 
lyptic for certain of His purposes ; so He accepted the 
title of Messiah, though He never took the initiative in 
using it of Himself. It was full of suggestions bearing 
no relation to what He had to do; yet it was the best 
term available, and it was far more true to say that He 
was the promised Messiah than to deny it; for to 
Him was entrusted the essential task of the Messiah — 
to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. 

My contention is that there is no incompatibility 
between the Synoptic and the Johannine portraits, 
because the Synoptic portrait is substantially Johannine. 
In support of this contention I offer an outline-sketch 
of the Synoptic portrait. Many of the points included 
in it will also be recalled in their appropriate places in 
the Johannine story. 

The Lord, at His Baptism, is conscious of the call 
to begin now the work of Messiah: the voice from 
heaven — “ This is ” (or “ Thou art ”) “ my beloved 
Son in whom I am well pleased ” — undoubtedly 
carries this meaning. At once, therefore, He goes into 
solitude to consider what manner of Messiah He shall 
be. The story of the Temptations is, of course, a 
parable of His spiritual wrestlings, told by Himself to 
His disciples. It represents the rejection, under three 
typical forms, of all existing conceptions of the Mes- 
sianic task, which was to inaugurate the Kingdom of 
God. Should He use the power with which, as 
Messiah, He is endowed to satisfy the creature wants 
of Himself and His human brethren, so fulfilling the 
hope of a “ good time coming ” which prophets had 
presented in the picture of the Messianic Banquet — - 



INTRODUCTION xxvii 

(cf. e.g. Isaiah xxv, 6)? Should He be a Caesar- 
Christ, winning the Kingdoms of the world and the 
glory of them by establishing an earthly, monarchy and 
ruling from the throne of David in perfect righteous- 
ness — (cf. e.g. Isaiah ix, 6, 7)? Should He provide 
irresistible evidence of His divine mission, appearing 
in the Temple courts upborne by angels, so that doubt 
would be impossible — (cf. e.g. Daniel vii, 13, 14, and 
Enoch)? Every one of these conceptions contained 
truth. When men are obedient to the Kingdom of 
God and His justice, everyone will have what he needs 
for food and clothing (St. Matthew vi, 33). The 
Kingdom of God is the realm of perfect justice where 
God’s righteous will is done (St. Matthew vi, xo). 
The authority of Christ is absolute and can claim the 
support of the hosts of heaven (St. Matthew xxviii, 1 8 ; 
xxvi, 53). Yet if any or all of these are taken as fully 
representative of the Kingdom and its inauguration 
they have one fatal defect. They all represent ways of 
securing the outward obedience of men apart from 
inward loyalty; they are ways of controlling conduct, 
but not ways of controlling hearts and wills. He 
might bribe men to obey Him by the promise of good 
things, and so encourage man’s evil tendency to care 
more for creature comforts than for the Word of God. 
He might coerce men to obey by threat of penalty, as 
earthly rulers do, and so Himself worship, and en- 
courage men to worship, the Prince of this world. He 
might offer irresistible proof so that men would have 
to think the Gospel true even if they wished that it 
were not, putting to the proof the God who claims 
men’s trust. In other words, all the rejected methods 
are essentially appeals to self-interest; and the Kingdom 
of God, who is Love, cannot be established in that way. 
He has stripped Messiahship bare, repudiating all 
existing conceptions of it. Only the essential task 
remains — to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. He 
starts His Ministry, leading the life of perfect love, 



xxviii READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

and teaching the precepts of perfect love._ He is 
endowed with supernatural power, and uses it for the 
works of love. . But His miracles are a hindrance to 
His main purpose rather than a help, because they lead 
men to think of Him as a wonder-worker and excite in 
them a quite unspiritual interest and curiosity. So He 
commonly bids those whom He heals to be quiet 
about it; yet He still heals; for Love confronted with 
need must meet the need if it can. 

The enquiry of John the Baptist is full of interest. 
He had once recognised the Lord for what He was. 
But he has begun to doubt because he hears what the 
Lord is doing. There are some blind folk who can 
see, some dumb folk who can speak, some deaf folk 
who can hear, even some dead folk raised to life and 
some devils vanquished; but where is the throwing 
down of strongholds and the uplifting of the meek, that 
should be the evidence of Messiah’s presence in the 
world? So he sends to ask “ Art thou he that should 
come or do we look for another? ” The answer directs 
his attention to the causes of his doubt; let John 
consider it all again — with the addition “ that the 
poor have the good news proclaimed to them; and 
blessed is he who is not scandalised at me ” (St. Mat- 
thew xi, 1-6; St. Luke vii, 18-23). If we follow this 
advice what do we find? Power — yes, but the marvel 
is not in the power. What we find is power in complete 
subordination to love; and that is something like a 
definition of the Kingdom of God. 

At first the Ministry was public. Then came a 
change, and the Lord began to concentrate attention 
on the Twelve whom He chose “ that they might be 
with him ” (St. Mark iii, 14). At about the same time 
He spoke the Parable of the Sower. To us it seems so 
beautiful in its simplicity that we are puzzled at the 
association with it of the dark words of Isaiah — about 
seeing and not perceiving (St. Mark iv, 11, 12). But 
we must ask what was the Word which this Sower had 



INTRODUCTION 


XXIX 


been scattering; it was not exhortation to virtue; it 
was the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. And it 
was very hard for men trained in the Jewish tradition 
to believe that the Kingdom of God is something 
scattered broadcast, which here meets with failure, 
there with brief success which gives place to failure, 
and only occasionally reaches full success. So in His 
explanation He says to the chosen few “ Unto you is 
given the mystery — (the secret disclosed to initiates) 

— of the Kingdom of God, but unto those that are 
without all things are done in parables that seeing they 
may see and not perceive ”, etc. (<SV. Mark iv, io, 12). 

But if the method of the Kingdom is to be that of 
Love winning answering love what the Parable of the 
Sower sets forth is inevitably true concerning it. 

Having chosen the Twelve “ that they might be 
with Him ”, he takes them on two long journeys on 
foot, outside the areas of Jewish controversy, so that 
they may come to an intimate knowledge of Him. 
First they go to Tyre and Sidon, and, after return 
from there, to Caesarea Philippi; and now He feels 
that they are ready, and He asks whom men suppose 
Him to be. They mention the various guesses. Then 

— “ Who say ye that I am? ” — and Peter with a leap 
of inspired insight answers “ Thou art the Messiah ”. 
The Lord recognises that this is not something that 
He has been told, though John the Baptist long before 
had pointed to it; it is a revelation from heaven in 
answer to his loyalty. 

Then the Lord, having been freely recognised, 
begins two new things: first a new teaching — “ The 
Son of Man must suffer ”. This is the new conception 
which takes the place of all those rejected at the outset 
in the wilderness; and St. Peter is not ready for it; 
but it is necessary. The Son of Man must suffer. 
For the manifestation of love, by which it wins its 
response, is always sacrifice. The principle of sacrifice 
is that we choose to do or to suffer what apart from 



xxx READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

our love we should not choose to do or to suffer. 
When love is returned this sacrifice is the most joyful 
thing in the world, and heaven is the life of joyful 
sacrifice. But in a selfish world it must be painful, and 
the pain is the source of triumph. 

As He begins to give the new teaching, and now 
reiterates it frequently, so He starts at once on that 
journey, near the beginning of which He ascends the 
Mount of Transfiguration, and at the end of which 
He ascends the Hill of Calvary. In the ecstasy of 
the Transfiguration the theme of discourse between the 
Head of the Law, the Head of the Prophets and the 
Head of the New Order is the Exodus which He will 
accomplish at Jerusalem; the word Exodus carries a 
double meaning — for Him decease, for His people 
deliverance. On the journey to Jerusalem, as the 
Messiah marches on His capital, two disciples ask if 
they may be specially near Him in His glory. His 
answer is “ Can you share my sacrifice? ” — for the 
sacrifice is the glory. On reaching Jerusalem He 
challenges the High Priests by deliberately fulfilling 
Zechariah’s prophecy in the Triumphal Entry. They 
must either accept Him or condemn Him to death for 
blasphemy, and He knows which they will do. He 
speaks repeatedly of His Coming as imminent ; there 
is nothing said about a Second Coming, though there 
is truth in the expectation so expressed. But the Lord 
speaks only of the Coming of the Son of Man. Before 
the High Priest He declares that this is now a present 
fact. “ From henceforth there shall be the Son of 
Man seated on the right hand of God and coming 
in the clouds of heaven” (St. Luke xxii, 69; cf. 
St. Matthew xxvi, 64). In each case the translation 
“ hereafter ” is a mere mistake. It is air apn in 
St. Matthew and hub rov vvv in St. Luke — the different 
expression for the same substance makes strong 
evidence). Daniel’s prophecy, He claims, is then and 
there fulfilled. 



INTRODUCTION 


XXXI 


In power the Kingdom was established when Christ 
was lifted up upon the Cross. From that moment it is 
true that “ He cometh with clouds that is present 
fact. He reigns from the Tree. But not all have eyes 
to perceive; and the time when “ every eye shall see 
Him ” is still future, and this is the truth in the 
expectation of a Return or Second Coming. 

The progress of the Kingdom consists in the up- 
rising within the hearts of men of a love and trust 
which answer to the Love which shines from the Cross 
and is, for this world, the glory of God — the shining 
forth of His very self; and that newly experienced 
power of love and trust is the activity of the Holy 
Spirit, the Paraclete, who could not be given till Jesus 
was glorified (St. John vii, 39). 

There remains a final consummation which involves 
a change in our mortal state and a removal of our 
present limitations. The Kingdom cannot come in all 
its perfection in this world for at least two reasons. 
First, it is a fellowship of all generations; secondly, 
every child that is born, being a nucleus of that 
Original Sin which is self-centredness, disturbs such 
degree of approximation as has been reached. Conse- 
quently here the figure of the Kingdom is the Cross, 
for in this world it is always winning its triumph by 
sacrifice; but the Cross is the symbol, not of failure 
but of triumph — a triumph to be made perfect in 
God’s chosen time. 

This is a purely Johannine picture of the Person 
and Work of Christ. My contention is that it is in 
fact the picture presented by the Synoptists, though 
they themselves had not fully grasped its meaning, 
which the Beloved Disciple first apprehended and 
declared. 

As a confirmation of this view we may recall the 
fact that the “ Sayings ” of Christ recorded in the 
papyri discovered at Oxyrrynchus give us teaching 
which is strongly Johannine in substance without any 



xxxii READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

of the distinctively Johannine phraseology. This 
evidence, the value of which is still a matter of some 
dispute, supports the view here taken, that the mind 
of Jesus Himself was what the Fourth Gospel dis- 
closed, but that the disciples were at first unable to 
enter into this, partly because of its novelty, and partly 
because of the associations attaching to the terminology 
in which it was necessary that the Lord should express 
Himself. Let the Synoptists repeat for us as closely as 
they can the very words He spoke; but let St. John 
tune our ears to hear them. 


Notes 

(a) On the Following Translation 

I have set out from the Revised Version as Westcott 
would have wished it to be. No doubt he exaggerated 
the importance for Hellenistic Greek of some dis- 
tinctions that are of great importance for classical 
Greek — e.g. between the aorist and the perfect tenses. 
But it was a good fault on the whole for an expositor. 
I have in a similar way sometimes gone to excess in 
retaining the order of the Greek words (for this some- 
times suggests a valuable emphasis), and also in 
choosing words and phrases which exaggerate the 
shade of meaning conveyed by the original. For the 
purpose in view this is preferable to a better English 
which misses or ' obscures these nuances. But at all 
times my translation is intended for private reading 
with a view to personal meditation. It is not intended 
as a translation of the original into the most adequate 
English for reading aloud; for such a purpose it 
would be (so far as it is distinctive) a very bad transla- 
tion. Its aim is to supply for those who cannot refer 
to the Greek original some of the additional illumina- 
tion which is obtainable from that source. It is hoped 



INTRODUCTION xxxiii 

that readers -will have at hand a copy of the Revised 
Version in which references may be looked up. 

(b) On Dislocations of the Text 

I have a strong initial prejudice against any sug- 
gestion of dislocation in the text. But the arguments 
for supposing that Chapter VI should precede Chapter 
V, and that in Chapter VII verses 15-24 should be 
placed at the beginning of the chapter, are extremely 
strong. They are set out by Archbishop Bernard on 
pages xvi to xxx and following in the Introduction to 
his commentary. Here it is enough to say that the re- 
arrangement proposed not only makes many particular 
phrases, and the narrative as a whole, far more easily 
intelligible, but has some objective support in the 
order followed by Tatian (c. 170 a.d.). 

The other rearrangements proposed by Bernard 
seem to me far less probable; in particular, though 
the insertion of Chapters XV and XVI in the course 
of our Chapter XIII has some advantages, it also 
involves some disadvantages. In any case the grounds 
for these rearrangements are remote from the purpose 
of these “ readings as it is for the convenience of 
readers to follow the familiar arrangement unless there 
is very strong reason to vary it, I make no transposi- 
tions except in V, VI and VII; and I believe that this 
course is not only convenient but correct. 




PROLOGUE 



CHAPTER I 


(X-I8) 

r, 2. In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. 

And the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with 

God. 

“ In the beginning.” Of course the words take up 
the opening of Genesis. But they do this so as to 
suggest at once the transition from temporal event to 
eternal reality which is the essence of this Gospel. 
For the Greek words can also be translated “ In 
principle ”. It is a great mistake to suppose that, 
when a word in one language is represented by two or 
more in another, it is always necessary to choose one 
or other of these ; very often a word covers several 
meanings because the meanings really are connected 
together, and the mind easily passes from one to the 
other without consciousness of movement. So the 
word really means both things; and here the expression 
used means both “ in the beginning of history ” and 
“ at the root of the universe ”. 

What is said so to exist is “ the Word ”. This 
term again combines two meanings. It is the Word 
of the Lord by which the heavens were made, and 
which came to the Prophets. It is also the Rational 
Principle which gives unity and significance to all 
existing things. In this sense it had been used by 
Heraclitus of Ephesus in the sixth century before 
Christ. “ The sun ”, he says, “ will not transgress 
his measures; were he to do so, the aiders of Justice 
would overtake him. He who speaks with under- 
standing must take his foothold on what is common 
to all, even more firmly than the city stands on the 
foothold of law; for all human laws are nourished by 

3 



4 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

the divine law. Though this Word (Logos) — this 
fundamental law — existeth from all time, yet man- 
kind are unaware of it, both ere they hear it and in 
the moment that they hear it.” This conception of 
the Logos, the principle of Law or Reason, was taken 
up by the Stoics and handed on from them to Philo, 
the Platonising Jew of Alexandria. Nothing can be 
more misleading than to enquire whether the Johan- 
nine Logos is the Word of the Lord familiar in the 
Old Testament, or the Philonic Logos, who is spoken 
of as a “ second God ”; for Philo had himself effected 
the combination of the Old Testament “ Word ” with 
the Stoic “ Logos ”, 

I have no doubt that in a general sense St. John is 
here following the thought of Philo ; but this does not 
mean that he was a student of Philo’s writings. The 
term “ Logos ” was in general use in the Hellenistic 
world; among Hellenised Jews the intellectual cur- 
rents represented by Philo inevitably exerted an 
influence. The Evangelist is not here proclaiming 
unfamiliar truth; rather he is seeking common ground 
with his readers. It is of no use to tell the Hellenistic 
Ephesians that the Messiah is come; they are not 
expecting any Messiah and would not be interested; 
it would be like trying to excite an English audience 
by proclaiming the arrival of the Mahdi. Moreover 
he wants a term that carries thought nearer to the 
heart of all reality. He finds it in this word “ Logos ”, 
which alike for Tew, and. Gentile represents the ruling 
fact of the uni vers e, and represents that fact as the 
self-expression of^Gqdr 'l l fie lew will rememKe^Tliat 
<7 by the Word ofthe Lord were the heavens made ”; 
the Greek will think of the rational principle of which 
all natural laws are particular expressions. Both will 
agree that this Logos is the starting-point of all things. 
It exists as it always did eV apxfj — in the beginning, 
at the root of the universe. 

Moreover its very essence is a relationship to God 


CHAPTER I 


5 

such that it is truly divine. The term “ God ” is fully 
substantival in the first clause — npos tov ©ew : it is 
predicative and not far from adjectival in the second — 
©eo? rjv 6 A oyos. Thus from the outset we are to 
understand that the Word has its whole being within 
Deity, but that it does not exhaust the being of Deity. 
Or, to put it from the other side, God is essentially 
self-revealing; but He is first of all a Self capable of 
being revealed. This same Word, or Self-revelation, 
is then again said to exist in essential relationship to 
God. 

St. John has thus established common ground with 
all his readers. If they are Jews they will recognise 
and assent to the familiar doctrine of the Old Testa- 
ment concerning the Word of God. If they are Greeks 
they will recognise and assent to the declaration that 
the ultimate reality is Mind expressing itself. To both 
alike he has announced in language easily received 
that the subject for which he is claiming their attention 
is the ultimate and supreme principle of the universe. 

* 

3. Through its agency all things came to be, and apart from it hath 
not one thing come to be. 

The Greek pronoun may be either masculine or 
neuter. In the mind of the evangelist, no doubt, it is 
masculine but not in that of a contemporary reader; 
ground has not yet been given for attributing person- 
ality to the Logos, so it seems better for languages which 
must choose one or the other to choose the neuter. The 
supreme principle of the universe is not only its bond 
of unity, but its ground of existence. In other words, 
only because it is God’s Nature to reveal or com- 
municate Himself is there a world at all; everything 
in it, every single occurrence in time and space, is 
subject to this controlling fact, that the world exists 
as the arena of God’s self-revelation. Of course St. 


6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

John knows that he is stating the religious principle of 
God’s supremacy, the philosophical principle of ulti- 
mate unity, in the way that most of any throws the 
problem of evil into relief. The reference to “ dark- 
ness ” about to follow shews his awareness of this. 
But he makes no comment now. The story which he 
is about to tell contains his comment and even his 
solution of the problem (xii, 31-32). But as there is 
no real solution except in the light of that story he 
will not comment now. He will only assert, in the 
strongest terms that he can find, his assurance that all 
things exist or come to be as a result of God’s activity 
by self-expression, knowing that he thus provokes in 
its acutest form the gravest of all religious difficulties. 
Just so the hymn of the Elders in the Apocalypse , 
“ Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive 
the glory and the honour and the power, for thou 
didst create all things, and because of thy will they 
were, and were created ”, introduces the interpretation 
of that Book of Destiny in which the chapters are 
Conquest, War, Famine and Death. And there, too, 
the interpretation is the same ( 'Revelation iv, 1 1 ; 
v, 9 ; vi, 1-8). 

* 

4, 5. What came to be in it was Life, and the Life was the light of 
men, and the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness did not 
absorb it. 

Here the interpretation for Christian and non- 
Christian begins to diverge. 

(a) For non-Christians the words would mean that 
within that supreme principle is, and always has been, 
Life. Life is not said to be a product of its agency as 
the world is, but rather to be one of its own inherent 
characteristics. When we pass from the inert thing 
to the living creature we reach a stage where there 
is something in common between the creature and 
creative principle besides bare existence. And in this 



CHAPTER I 


7 

vital energy — for it is Life in that sense that the word 
implies 1 — is the beacon by which men are guided. 
The impulse to move is also the guide of our move- 
ment. Its direction is not yet disclosed; but in the 
fact that the vital impulse is an element in the 
divine manifestation we have the assurance that cor- 
respondence with the mind of God will be the true 
satisfaction of that impulse. 

(b) But for a Christian reader a new suggestion is 
already present. He would notice the difference in the 
prepositions used. “ Through its agency all things 
came to pass ”; but they are not said to be all of them 
Life. “ What came to pass in it was Life.” But only 
of one occurrence is it true to say that it took place 
not only through but in the Logos ; that is the nativity 
of Jesus. All other existing things, though owing their 
existence to the Logos, and never escaping its final 
control, yet shew some deviation from it. The Cosmos 
lieth in evil, not in the Logos. Only Jesus is wholly 
in the Logos. And only Jesus is truly Life — so that 
all true Life in us is drawn from Him. As He alone is 
truly Life (xi, 25; xiv, 6), so He alone is truly Light 
(viii, 12). In all periods, but supremely in the period 
of Christ’s earthly ministry, the light shineth in the 
darkness , and the darkness did not absorb it . 

Imagine yourself standing alone on some headland 
in a dark night. At the foot of the headland is a light- 
house or beacon, not casting rays on every side, but 
throwing one bar of light through the darkness. It is 
some such image that St. John had before his mind. 
The divine light shines through the darkness of the 
world, cleaving it, but neither dispelling it nor quenched 
by it. The word translated in the Authorised Version 
“ comprehended ”, in the text of the Revised Version 
“ apprehended ”, and in its margin “ overcame ”, is a 
word of two meanings; literally it is “ to take down or 
under ”, and may thus mean “ to take right into the 

1 I propose everywhere to translate by “ Life *\ and tjfvxq by “ life *\ 



8 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

mind ” (apprehend) or “ to take under control ” (over- 
come). In this context the two meanings are direct 
opposites, for to apprehend light is to be enlightened 
by it, and to overcome light is to put it out. Yet the 
word truly means both of these. The darkness in no 
sense at all received the light; yet the light shone 
still undimmed. So strange is the relation of the light 
of God’s revelation to the world which exists to be 
the medium of that revelation. 

St. John is not yet, as I read him, thinking only of 
the Life of the Word Incarnate, though what he says 
is true also of that Life. He is thinking of the period 
covered by the Old Testament, with the light of the 
revelation to Israel piercing the darkness of the 
heathenism by which Israel was surrounded; and this 
is to him an illustration of a universal principle. It is 
always so. Take any moment of history and you find 
light piercing unillumined darkness — now with refer- 
ence to one phase of the purpose of God, now another. 
The company of those who stand in the beam of the 
light by which the path of true progress for that time 
is discerned is always small. Remember Wilberforce 
and the early Abolitionists; remember the twelve 
Apostles and the company gathered about them. 
What is seen conspicuously in those two examples is 
always true ; and as we think of the spiritual progress 
of the race this truth finds a fresh illustration. As we 
look forwards, we peer into darkness, and none can say 
with certainty what course the true progress of the 
future should follow. But as we look back, the truth 
is marked by beacon-lights, which are the lives of 
saints and pioneers; and these in their turn are not 
originators of light, but rather reflectors which give 
light to us because themselves they are turned towards 
the source of light. 

This darkness in which the light shines unabsorbed 
is cosmic. St. John is most modern here. The evil 
which for him presents the problem is not only in 



CHAPTER I 


9 

men’s hearts; it is in the whole ordered system of 
nature. That ordered system is infected; it “ lieth in 
the evil one ” (/ John v, 1 9). St. John might have had 
all the modern problem of the callousness and cruelty 
of nature before his mind. Anyhow, his approach is 
the modern approach. He does not conceive of Nature 
as characterised by a Wordsworthian perfection, which 
is only spoilt by fallen mankind. To his deep spiritual 
insight it is apparent that the redemption of man is 
part, even if the crowning part, of a greater thing — 
the redemption, or conquest (xvi, 33), of the universe. 
Till that be accomplished the darkness abides, pierced 
but unillumined by the beam of divine light. And the 
one great question for everyone is whether he will 
“ walk in darkness ” or “ walk in light ” (/ John i, 7; 
ii, 10, 11). 

* 

6-8. There came a man sent from God — the name of him John. 
This man came with a view to witness, in order that he might give 
witness concerning the light, that all might believe through him. 
That one was not the light, but was to bear witness concerning 
the light. 

Here is one of those who act as beacons for pilgrims 
by reflecting the divine light. But he did more than 
reflect it; he pointed to it and bade men follow, not 
him, but it. His whole function was witness or testi- 
mony. He was a voice. He would direct attention 
away from his personality to his message. He pointed 
to one whose message directed attention to Himself; 
for He, to whom John pointed, was the light itself. 

* 

9-13. There was the light, the true light, which enlighteneth every 
man, — coming into the world. In the world he was; and the 
world through his agency came into being; and the world did not 
recognise him. To his own home he came, and his own people 
did not receive him. But as many as received him, to them gave he 



IO READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

the right to become children of God — to those that believe on 
the name of him who was born, not of blood, nor of the will of the 
flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God. 

We now approach the new revelation. From the 
beginning the divine light has shone. Always it was 
coming into the world; always it enlightened every 
man alive in his reason and conscience. Every check 
on animal lust felt by the primitive savage, every 
stimulation to a nobler life, is God self-revealed within 
his soul. But God in self-revelation is the Divine 
Word, for precisely this is what that term means. 
What is constituted within that divine self-communica- 
tion, as one element composing it, is the energy of 
Life; this is what urges all kinds of living things 
forward in their evolution; and this is what is fully 
and perfectly expressed in Christ. So it may be truly 
said that the conscience of the heathen man is the voice 
of Christ within him — though muffled by his ignor- 
ance. All that is noble in the non-christian systems of 
thought, or conduct, or worship is the work of Christ 
upon them and within them. By the Word of God — 
that is to say, by Jesus Christ — Isaiah, and Plato, 
and Zoroaster, and Buddha, and Confucius conceived 
and uttered such truths as they declared. There is 
only one divine light ; and every man in his measure is 
enlightened by it. 

Yet this light is not recognised for what it is. If 
it were, its fuller shining would always be welcomed. 
But it is attributed by each tribe or group to some 
historic or legendary founder or pioneer of their own, 
so that each claims to have a monopoly of the light 
itself, when in fact each has only a few rays of that 
light, which needs all the wisdom of all the human 
traditions to manifest the entire compass of its spectrum. 
Moreover it has to shine through veils of prejudice 
and obsession, so that even the rays received by each 
group among mankind are not clear and pure in the 
illumination which they give. 



CHAPTER I 


1 1 


So the light itself is unrecognised; and when it 
blazes out more fully, men refuse it, even though it is 
that by which they already walk. For these reasons 
it is true both that Christ is indeed the Desire of all 
Nations, and yet that He is always more and other 
than men desire until they learn of Him. 1 To come to 
Him is always an act of self-surrender as well as of 
self-fulfilment, and must be first experienced as self- 
surrender. 

But there was one nation specially prepared for the 
reception of the light in its fulness. Israel had 
received the light in a measure so full as to be called 
its own home, its own people. But when He came — 
(and here for the first time a pronoun unmistakably 
personal in its reference is used) — His own people 
were as completely unable to receive Him as any others 
had been to receive light fuller than that to which they 
were accustomed. 

With this direct reference to the coming of the 
Christ to Israel the drama of the Gospel opens. It is 
throughout its course the picture of His rejection by 
His own people generally, and His reception by the 
few. Over and over again the Evangelist will draw 
this moral with reference to the various episodes that 
he relates (cf. vii, 40-44; viii, 30, 59; x, 19-21; xi, 
45, 46. These are perhaps the most conspicuous 
instances, but similar comments are frequent). This 
is in one aspect a Gospel of Judgement. By their 
reaction to the impact of Christ men are judged, and 
take their position as children of darkness or children 
of light (xii, 35, 36). 

None can take rank among the children of light 
by any right, power or merit of his own, but only by 
becoming (like John the Baptist) beacons who reflect 
a light of which they are not the source. But to those 
who so receive the Light when it comes, it (or He, for 

i Cf. Reports of the International Missionary Council (Jerusalem, 1928), 
The Christian Message. 



12 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

the Light is Jesus) gives the right to become sons of God. 

Are we not all children of God? Yes, in one most 
true sense — by creation. “ It is He that hath made 
us and not we ourselves.” But the writers of the New 
Testament all observe a certain use of language which 
has deep significance. They often imply that God is 
the Father of all men ; but they do not speak of all men 
as His children; that expression is reserved for those 
who, by the grace of God, are enabled in some measure 
to reproduce His character. So the Lord Himself 
commands us to imitate the universal and undis- 
criminating Love of God “ that ye may be sons of 
your Father which is in heaven ” (St. Matthew v, 45). 
The phrase is used in the sense in which we sometimes 
say of a man “ He is the son of his father that is, 
in him we see his father again. In that sense there is 
only one “Son of the Father”; but He makes it 
possible for us to share His Sonship; the Spirit whom 
He sends from the Father is “ the spirit of adoption 
whereby we cry Abba, Father ” (Romans viii, 15). 

He gives the right to become sons of God to those 
who receive Him, that is to those who “ believe on 
His Name The Name is the manifested nature; to 
baptise into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the 
Holy Ghost is to plunge or bathe the person in the 
manifested love of God. To believe on, or put trust 
in, the love of God made manifest in Christ is the 
condition of becoming a son of God who reproduces 
the divine character. But we do not thereby acquire 
an equality with Christ. It remains true that only 
through Christ are we enabled to acquire a relationship 
to God which was, and is, Christ’s apart from any 
mediation. (And even then how half-hearted is our 
faith ! How defective our reflection of the divine love !) 

Who was (or were) horn. I have adopted above the 
text which Tertullian accepted; but I did so rather to 
challenge attention than because it is probably correct. 
The plural verb has far the greater weight of authority 



CHAPTER I 


*3 

in the manuscripts. Yet the sense is the same. Nothing 
can explain the quite peculiar phrasing of this passage 
except the supposition that it refers to the Virgin Birth 
of our Lord. With the singular verb this is explicit; 
and the significance which it gives to that event is an 
insistence that the coming of our Lord into the world 
is not due to any human impulse or volition but is an 
act of God alone. 

The reference in the language to the mode of our 
Lord’s nativity secures that this meaning is still present 
even if the verb be plural — who were born . For the 
point is that the process whereby those who receive 
Him become sons of God — are re-born or re-generate 
as sons of God — is as much due to the sole activity 
of God as was the birth into the world of Him who 
alone is in His own right Son of God. 

And now the great declaration is made. This 
Word, this Logos, which Greeks and Hebrews unite 
in recognising as the controlling power of the whole 
universe, is no longer unknown or dimly apprehended. 
The Light which in some measure lightens every man 
has shone in its full splendour. 

* 

14. And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us — (and 
we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten from a father) — 
full of grace and truth. 

The Word became flesh. The Word did not merely 
indwell a human being. Absolute identity is asserted. 
The Word is Jesus; Jesus is the Word. And it is 
said that the Word became flesh because “ flesh ” is 
that part of human nature commonly associated with 
frailty and evil; commonly, but not necessarily. In 
Jesus the flesh is the completely responsive vehicle of 
the spirit. The whole of Him, flesh included, is the 
Word, the self-utterance, of God. 

He tabernacled among us\ He pitched His fleshly 



i 4 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

tent among us. The suggestion is of a brief sojourn, 
but ail thought of a momentary apparition is excluded. 

Full of grace and truth . He not only disclosed the 
divine reality, but therein also displayed its beauty. 
Truth is august, often austere, sometimes repellent. 
But here it is gracious and winning. John the Baptist, 
who is also in mind here (6 and 1 5), was full of truth, 
but there was not much grace about him ! 

We beheld his glory . Not all who set eyes on Him 
did that. “ We ” does not mean all who ever met 
Him. Caiaphas and Herod and Pilate did not behold 
His glory. But His true disciples did. His glory was 
not something left behind to which one day He would 
return — as St. Paul had sometimes suggested ( Philip - 
pans ii, 6-10; II Corinthians viii, 9). Of course the 
Pauline doctrine is true. The Incarnation was an 
act of sacrifice and of humiliation — real however 
voluntary. But that is not the last word. For the 
sacrifice and the humiliation are the divine glory. If 
God is Love, His glory most of all shines forth in 
whatever most fully expresses love. The Cross of 
shame is the throne of glory. St. John will take his 
own way of saying that with emphasis as the story goes 
forward. Now at the outset He makes the proclama- 
tion — We beheld his glory , glory as of an only begotten 
from a father. There are no definite articles; the state- 
ment is not a piece of technical Trinitarian theology, 
though it supplies the basis for such a theology. It is 
a record of experience. The glory which appeared 
seemed not to have its source in Him, but to stream 
through Him from beyond. To be with Him was — 
as it still is — to be with “ Him that sent Him ”. He 
is the only Son (the word povoyevijs has no reference 
to the process of begetting and expresses uniqueness 
rather than mode of origin) who alone perfectly re- 
produces the Father’s character. The glory is, in the 
phrase that He will use, not mine but his that sent me. 
The glory that the Word displays to us is the glory of 



CHAPTER I 


15 

God, whose is that Word. We are very close to the 
great utterance He that hath seen me hath seen the 
Father (xiv, 9). Yet the reference is not yet quite 
explicit to the divine Father; the absence of the definite 
article excludes that. Only in verse 1 8 will that refer- 
ence become quite explicit. Here all the emphasis is 
laid upon the fact apparent to the spiritual awareness 
of those who beheld his glory that this glory shone from 
a source beyond through the Figure with whom the 
disciples held converse. 

That source beyond is the Eternal Father. Con- 
sequently, as we read the story, though it all happened 
long ago, we apprehend present fact. It is not only 
the record of a historical episode that we read; it is 
the self-expression of that God “ in whom we live and 
move and have our being ” ; so that whatever finds 
expression there is true now, and the living Jesus who 
is “ the same yesterday and to-day and for ever ” still 
deals with our souls as He dealt with those who had 
fellowship with Him when He tabernacled among us* 
Our reading of the Gospel story can be and should be 
an act of personal communion with the living Lord. 

* 

1 5. John beareth witness concerning him and hath cried saying This 
is he whom I mentioned; he that cometh after me is come to be 
before me; because he was first in respect of me. 

This is the second parenthetical introduction of 
John the Baptist. For appreciation of the Word made 
flesh it is important to recognise the witness of this 
last and greatest (St. Matthew xi, 9-10) of the prophets 
to whom the Word of the Lord came. That witness 
is constant. Though in a certain sense John was the 
pioneer and Jesus took up his message of repentance 
because the Kingdom was at hand, yet John the Fore- 
runner always spoke of Him who should follow as 
greater than himself, A forerunner goes first; yet 

c 



1 6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

the cause of his activity is the follower for whom he 
prepares; therefore the follower, though later in time, 
is prior in the order of thought. In this case that 
relationship does no more than express the essential 
relation of the two persons. “ He was — always and 
in nature — first in respect of me.” 1 

* 

1 6-1 8. Because out of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace. 
Because the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came 
through Jesus Christ. 

God hath no man ever yet seen; God only begotten, who is in 
the bosom of the Father — he declared him. 

The parenthetical reference to the Baptist is 
finished, and we come to the justification of the 
stupendous claim made in 14; we can say that the 
Word tabernacled among us full of grace and truth 
because in our own experience we have drawn upon 
that treasure store, and have found that the more we 
drew the more remained that we might also draw 
from that; for every grace received there was more 
grace offered. So we learnt the difference between the 
old dispensation and the new. That was law — - com- 
mands and prohibitions enforced by rewards and 
punishments; in fact it was what St. Paul calls “ the 
spirit of slavery ” ( Romans viii, x 5) ; for the slave has 
his orders and is rewarded if he obeys them faithfully 
and punished if he disobeys. But what we have 
received is “ the spirit of adoption ”, for if our hearts 
are open to the love of God made known in Jesus 
Christ we no longer ask chiefly what has God com- 
manded or what has He forbidden, but rather what — 
apart from any known command or prohibition — 
will please our Father ; and we do this not to gain 

1 Does this curious construction i rptoros fiov give the solution of the 
celebrated problem about the census in St. Luke ii, 2 — " this census took 
place first in respect of — i.e. before — Quirinius’ Syrian governorship 



CHAPTER I 


17 

reward or to avoid punishment but because our desire 
and joy is to please our Father. 

We are won to that new disposition by the grace 
and truth in Jesus Christ. The appeal is not to our 
self-interest, though He uses that also in its place, but 
to the free assent of heart and mind. And this is made 
by the disclosure of the Divine Nature. 

God hath no man ever yet seen . St. John is no mystic 
in the strict sense of that word; indeed he is the most 
strongly anti -mystical of all writers. Anything re- 
sembling a direct vision of God is absolutely ruled out. 
He is intensely and profoundly sacramental; he sees 
the spiritual in the material, the divine nature in the 
human nature, which it uses as its vehicle. The central 
declaration, The Word became flesh , is the affirmation of 
this sacramental principle. But of direct vision of God 
he shews no trace, nor any admission of its possibility. 

God only begotten . This is the reading of the best 
manuscripts, and it is easy to see how easily it would 
be changed — a very small change in the Greek — - to 
“ the only begotten Son The meaning is sub- 
stantially the same, but the phrase “ God only 
begotten ” is by far the more arresting. 

It was not a wholly novel phrase, though it is 
unlikely that it was generally familiar. Its first appear- 
ance, so far as my knowledge goes, is in the great 
sentence with which, in the Timaeus , Plato closes his 
myth of creation: “And now let us say that our 
account of the universe reaches its conclusion. For, 
receiving living creatures mortal and immortal and 
being fulfilled, this universe, a visible living creature, 
containing what things are visible, an image of the 
intelligible, God made perceptible, greatest and best, 
fairest and most perfect, hath come to be one heaven, 
as we see, being only begotten ” ( Timaeus , 92 c 4-9). 

But there it is the universe which is so described, 
because of the perfect satisfaction which it affords to 
aesthetic and intellectual contemplation. The contrast 



1 8 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

is greater than the resemblance when St. John, with 
the living God in mind whom no man hath ever seen, 
speaks of the Word as God only begotten , and of his 
Incarnation as the disclosure of the invisible God. 
This can be so only because eternally the Word is in 
the bosom of the Father , and is thus Himself designated 
as the Son. 

The phrase expresses the love of the Son for the 
Father and at the same time His dependence on the 
Father. Real and complete knowledge in persons of 
other persons is not distinguishable from love; it is 
not so much that the two go together as that the two 
words express two aspects of one thing. To under- 
stand a person means rather to sympathise with him 
than to have a scientific apprehension of his motives, 
temperament and character. When understanding is 
perfected in knowledge properly so called, sympathy 
is perfected in love. This phrase, therefore, which 
is suggestive of the child in its mother’s arms, points 
to the fact which enables Christ to bring, or rather to 
be, the revelation of the Father. Because this is His 
relationship to the Father He can reveal or declare 
the Father. 

He does not reveal all that is meant by the word 
God. There ever remains the unsearchable abyss of 
Deity. But He reveals what it vitally concerns us to 
know; He reveals God as Father. 



ACT I 


The Lord introduced to various types of men: 

1. The Baptist, i, 19-34 

2. John, Andrew and Peter, i, 35-42 

3. Philip and Nathanael, i, 43-51 

4. The Churchman, iii, 1-1 7 

5. The Simple Woman, iv, 1-42 

6. The Seeking Multitude, vi 

Certain episodes are inserted in the course of these intro« 
d actions, which will be considered in their place. 




CHAPTER I 


(i9-34) 

19-28. And this is the witness of John when the Jews sent unto him 
from Jerusalem priests and Levites that they might ask him “ Thou, 
who art thou? ” And he confessed and denied not; and he 
confessed “/ am not the Christ”. And they asked him “What 
then? Art thou Elijah? ” And he saith “ I am not “ Art 
thou the prophet? ” And he answered “ No They said 
therefore to him “ Who art thou? That we may give an answer 
to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? ” He said 
“ I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness 1 Make straight the 
way of the Lord ’ as said Isaiah the prophet ”. And they had been 
sent from the Pharisees. And they asked him and said to him 
“ Why then baptisest thou if thou art not the Christ nor Elijah 
nor the prophet?” John answered them saying “ I baptise with 
water. In the midst of you standeth one whom ye know not, who 
cometh after me, of whom I am not worthy to loose the shoe- 
latchet.” This happened in Bethany beyond Jordan where John 
was, baptising. 

Now we come to the witness which John gave (7). 
For that witness he existed; it was his raison d'etre. 
Consequently he is impatient at these enquiries con- 
cerning his personality. We see his growing irritation 
in the increasing abruptness of his replies. “ I am 
not the Christ “I am not “ No ”. It is not 
who he is, but what he says, that matters. He is a 
voice. 

Herein already is the great contrast between him 
and the Lord. John says “ Never mind who I am; 
listen to what I say ”. Jesus says I am the way, the 
truth and the life; in Him the teaching is our intro- 
duction to the person, and our aim is not only con- 
formity to His teaching but fellowship with Himself. 
“ Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” 

John is here the type of all Christian witness. 
“ We preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, 

21 



22 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake ” 
(II Corinthians iv, 5). If ever our witness begins to be 
to ourselves or to make ourselves very prominent some- 
thing is going wrong with it. We may mention our 
own experience — “ O come hither and hearken all ye 
that fear God, and I will tell you what he hath done 
for my soul ” — but only as a means of pointing men 
to Christ. It is not ourselves but our witness to Him 
for which we want to claim attention. Never mind 
who or what I am; but do listen when I speak to you 
of Christ. 

I baptise with water . The pronoun is emphatic. 
John can offer the cleansing that comes with confession 
and the determination to make a fresh start. But the 
greater One to whom he bears witness is already there. 
In this record the full contrast is not drawn out — 
only the immeasurable distance that separates the 
witness from the Light. But of course the Evangelist 
knows that he has recorded enough to bring to mind 
the contrast which the Baptist actually drew. “I 
baptise with water; he shall baptise with holy spirit 
and fire.” The one is a mere cleansing from past 
contamination with the possibility of a new beginning; 
the latter is a positive energy of righteousness, a 
consuming flame of purity. (The Synoptists do not 
commit the absurdity of attributing to John the 
Baptist a Trinitarian theology. There is no definite 
article with the term “ holy spirit ”. Wherever in 
the New Testament this term occurs without the 
article, it denotes a human experience, not a divine 
Person, though that human experience is the work of 
the Third Person of the Godhead in man’s soul.) 

* 

29-34. The next day he seeth Jesus coming to him and saith “ Behold, 
the Lamb of God which beareth away the sin of the world. This 
is he of whom I said * After me cometh a man who is come to be 
before me because he always was first in respect of me ’. And 



CHAPTER I 


23 

I did not know him; but that he might be made manifest to Israel, 
on this account am I come baptising in water.” And John bare 
witness saying “ I have beheld the Spirit descending out of heaven 
as a dove, and it abode upon him. And I did not know him; but 
he that sent me to baptise in water, he said to me ‘ Upon whomso- 
ever thou shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding on him, this 
is he who baptiseth with holy spirit ’. And I have seen and have 
borne witness that this is the Son of God.” 

He seeth Jesus coming to him. What follows makes 
it plain that the Baptism of Jesus has taken place. 
Probably then He is returning from the forty days 
in the wilderness and the temptations concerning the 
manner of His Messiahship. 1 In the Temptation He 
has rejected all existent forms of the Messianic hope — 
the “ good time coming ” symbolised by the Mes- 
sianic Banquet, the Davidic King, the apocalyptic Son 
of Man. There was a truth in each, and He will use 
them all. But they are not fundamental. If treated as 
ultimate, each of them reveals the vital fault of making 
the final appeal to self-interest. He might bribe men 
into the Kingdom by hope of enjoyment; He might 
compel their obedience by force exercised in righteous- 
ness ; He might overwhelm them with evidence — 
the “ sign from heaven ” — so that doubt would be 
impossible. But in none of these ways would He win 
their hearts. He has stripped bare the essential 
function of the Messiah — to inaugurate the Kingdom 
of God. And He goes forth from His Temptation to 
live the life of perfect love, to die the death of perfect 
love, as the way of doing this. So soon as He was 
fully recognised — at Caesarea Philippi (St. Mark x, 
27-3 1) — He began to declare the mode of His Messiah- 
ship : “ The Son of Man must suffer 

So He comes from the Temptation wherein the 
Spirit that descended on Him at His Baptism (as we 
shall see) had been triumphant. The Baptist does not 
speak of Him clearly as Messiah ; the function to which 
the Spirit points had not yet been associated with the 

1 See Introduction, pp. xxvi-xxxi. 



24 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Messiah. That association would only come when the 
Lord Himself interpreted Isaiah liii as Messianic. 
But the Baptist certainly here applies to Him the figure 
of the Lamb in Isaiah liii, though the reference is also 
wider than that, for the Lamb was the familiar type of 
an offering to God. But this is more than a victim 
for sacrificial offering; for first, The Lamb of God is 
the victim whom God provides, as He provided the 
ram in place of Isaac ( Genesis xxii, 8); and secondly, 
this Lamb Himself beareth away the sin of the world. 
In the coming of Christ, God Himself is active; He 
not only accepts an offering made by man, but He 
provides (for indeed He Himself is) the offering, and 
He Himself makes it. All that man has to do is to 
participate in this divine action. And that action is a 
bearing which has the effect of taking away the sin of 
the world. The word atpcov means both, and there 
is no need to choose. By bearing it He removes it. 

The Sin of the World . How utterly modern is this 
conception! It is not “ sins ”, as by a natural early 
corruption of the text men were led to suppose, but 
“ sin ”. For there is only one sin, and it is characteristic 
of the whole world. It is the self-will which prefers 
“ my ” way to God’s — which puts “ me ” in the 
centre where only God is in place. It pervades the 
universe. It accounts for the cruelty of the jungle, 
where each animal follows its own appetite, unheeding 
and unable to heed any general good. It becomes 
conscious, and thereby tenfold more virulent, in man 
— a veritable Fall indeed. And no individual is 
responsible for it. It is an “ infection of nature ” 
(Article IX among the Thirty-Nine Articles of 
Religion), and we cannot cure it. We are not “ re- 
sponsible ” for it; ..but it sets us at enmity against 
God; it is the “ sin of the world 

A few generations ago it was customary to think 
of Nature as perfect, and the perfection marred by the 
Fall of Man. Such an outlook allows for no “ sin of 



CHAPTER I 


25 

the world *\ To us that outlook is become impossible; 
“ Nature red in tooth and claw ” is no fit representative 
of the God of Love at the infra-human level. “ Nature ” 
presents to the Theist problems as great as those aris- 
ing from human history, 1 The world is one, and its 
evil is one. There is a “ sin of the world It is this 
which the Lamb of God accepts as a burden and 
thereby, in principle, destroys. For us that sin, 
though still active, is a broken power. We know its 
conqueror. 

This is he of whom I said , etc. The Baptist had 
known the Lord in boyhood. No doubt he had in 
some measure learnt to appreciate Him. But he had 
not known Him for what He was. The word used is 
that which stands for knowledge of a truth — elSdvat 
— not knowledge of a person — yvowcu. (Contrast 
xiv, 9.) The Baptist had known Jesus of Nazareth, 
but had not known this about Him. It was what 
happened at the Baptism which disclosed the truth 
that Jesus was Messiah, and incidentally what manner 
of Messiah He would be. Now he knows that the 
whole purpose of his mission of repentance was, not to 
launch a movement having its end in its own success, 
but to prepare hearts to which the Messiah could 
be manifest — so that there should be some in Israel 
who would “ behold his glory ”. I have beheld the 
Spirit descending out of heaven as a dove and it abode 
upon him . In St. Mark’s account it is only to the 
Lord Himself that the vision came; here it is insisted 
that the Baptist beheld it also. 

Out of heaven . The vision of the descending and 
abiding Spirit — and the voice which said “ This is 
my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased ” (St. 
Mark i, 1 1) — are the commission from God to enter 
on the Messianic work, the work of inaugurating the 

1 Once when taking some children to the Zoo I met Bishop Gore. 
When, in answer to his enquiry, I told him where we were going, he said: 
“ Oh, I do hate the Zoo. It makes me an atheist in twenty minutes.” 



2 6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Kingdom of God. The commission is from God; the 
Lord’s character as man may qualify Him to receive 
it but does not constitute it. 

As a dove. Why a dove? No doubt there was a 
traditional connexion between the Spirit of God and 
the dove. Jewish Doctors had added to Genesis i, 2 
the gloss “ like a dove ”. The phrase “ the voice of 
the turtle ” ( Canticle ii, x 2) had been interpreted as 
“ the voice of the Spirit But there is more in it than 
this. The dove was the poor man’s sacrifice {St. Luke 
ii, 24), and was commonly reputed to be the only 
sacrificial victim that offered its own neck to the 
sacrificial knife. That is the Spirit that descends upon 
Him; that is His Kingly anointing; that is what 
marks Him as Son of God. 

And so the Baptist is led past all current con- 
ceptions of the Messiah to that of the Priest- Victim 
in redemptive sacrifice. He will not maintain the 
fulness of that illumination. Its implications are 
beyond his grasp. Consequently when later, in his 
prison, he heard of the works of Christ, he began to 
doubt {St. Matthew xi, 2, 3; St. Luke vii, 18, 19). 1 
These cures and healings — could they be the fruit of 
Messiah’s presence in the world? Very wonderful, no 
doubt, but not signs of the present or imminent 
Kingdom of God. Not in this way will the strongholds 
of evil be cast down or the universal reign of righteous- 
ness be established. And the Lord’s answer is to 
invite John to consider again the very evidence that 
made him doubt. , 

For what is the great characteristic of those “ works 
of the Christ ”? Not power, though that is present, 
but that in each and all of them we see power sub- 
ordinate to love. And that is very near to being a 
definition of the principle of the Kingdom of God as 
Christ disclosed it. Power in subordination to love — 
that is the Spirit of the whole life of Christ, and it is 

1 See Introduction, p. xxviii. 



CHAPTER I 


27 


the Spirit which descends out of heaven as a dove . 

We do not know how far the Baptist in his prison 
could rise to the meaning of the answer to his question. 
But now, with the vision fresh in mind, he is carried 
to so profound an appreciation of the Person and 
Work of Christ that he leaves behind the current 
ideas of Messiahship and speaks in terms of voluntary 
sacrifice for the redemption of the world. And the 
result is that his disciples do not know that he has 
designated Jesus as Messiah in any sense at all. They 
have heard words of bewildering import, which will 
lead to their following Jesus rather than John himself. 
But they do not follow Him — yet — as Messiah. 
The confession of Simon Peter at Caesarea Philippi 
was the expression of a new intuition due to divine 
illumination (St. Matthew xvi, 1 7). 

He who baptiseth with holy spirit. The contrasting 
words omitted in 26 are now supplied. And in the 
narrative which immediately follows, the process so 
described begins to be manifest in the first “ disciples ”• 
This is the Son of God . To let this appear is the 
purpose of the evangelist in writing his Gospel (xx. 31). 
No doubt this is a Messianic title; but it is not neces- 
sarily so. If the centurion by the Cross used the 
phrase (St. Matthew xxvii, 54; contrast St. hake xxiii, 
47) he would probably not do so with a Messianic 
sense. The Baptist has made his confession; but the 
Lord’s secret though penetrated is not fully disclosed. 

* 

( 35 - 4 ^) 

35-42. The next day again John was standing and two of his disciples. 
And looking upon Jesus as he walked he saith ££ Behold, the Lamb 
of God ”... And the two disciples heard him as he spoke, and they 
followed Jesus. But Jesus, turning and beholding them following, 
saith to them ££ What seek ye? ” They said to him ££ Rabbi (which 
being interpreted means Master) where abidest thou? He saith 
to them ££ Come and ye shall see ”. They came therefore and saw 



28 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

where he abode, and they abode with him that day. It was about 
the tenth hour. Andrew the brother of Simon Peter was one of 
the two who had heard from John and had followed him. He 
findeth first his own brother Simon and saith to him “ We have found 
the Messiah (which is, being interpreted, the Christ). He brought 
him to Jesus. Jesus looking on him said “ Thou art Simon son of 
John; thou shaft be called Kephas, which is interpreted as Peter ”. 

They followed Jesus. The first in the long roll of 
followers. And they follow, as do most of us, because 
of what they have heard another say. We are Christians 
because we have been taught; and those who taught 
us W'ere taught themselves; so the line runs back to 
Christ and those about Him. Even of these first it is 
true that He did not in the first instance call them to 
follow; later ( St . Mark i, 16-20) He would call them 
Himself to a more dedicated following. Now they 
follow because of what is said by one whom they 
already trust, as we began to follow because of what 
our parents said. And He welcomes them and gives 
them opportunity to come to know Him and form their 
own impressions. 

One of the two. The other, no doubt, was John, 
the Beloved Disciple. 

He findeth first his own brother and so became the 
first missionary. We do not know very much about 
Andrew; but we know a great deal about his brother, 
and he was Andrew’s convert. Who shall say that 
Peter himself did more for His Lord than Andrew who 
brought Peter to Him? It is ever so. We never know 
who is doing the greatest work for God. liere is a man 
who holds great office in the Church and preaches to 
multitudes; yet at the end, all he has done is to keep 
things from falling back. And there is a girl, poor and 
uneducated, of whom no one ever thinks; but because 
she is loving and devout she sows the seed of life in a 
child entrusted to her care who grows up to be a 
missionary pioneer, or Christian statesman, or pro- 
found theologian — shaping the history of nations or 
the thought of generations. Andrew findeth his own 



CHAPTER I 


29 

brother ; perhaps it is as great a service to the Church 
as ever any man did. 

We have found the Messiah. So the half-disclosure 
of the secret, backed by the impression of an evening 
in the Lord’s company, had taken hold of their minds. 
Yet at this stage, this was rather an outburst of exalted 
hope than a rooted conviction of faith. 

He brought him to Jesus — the greatest service that 
one man can do another. 

Thou art Simon. You are the man we know well; 
and what we know is that you are eager, impulsive, 1 
generous, loyal and essentially unreliable. But that is 
going to be altered. One day you shall be called by a j 
name that no one would give you now — Rock-man. 

It is not only through our qualities of native/ 
strength that God can work. Quite equally and more 
conspicuously He can make our weakness the op- 
portunity of His grace. “ My grace is sufficient for 
thee; for my power is made perfect in weakness ” 
{II Corinthians xii, 9). Perhaps to the end of his life 
the process of making Simon into Peter was not quite 
complete — as witness the Quo Vadis legend. We 
must consider later the story of the work of grace in 
St. Peter’s life as St. John sketches it. But this 
promise at the outset of the Gospel is significant. 
When a man is brought to Jesus, Jesus can make him 
strong at the very point of his most apparent weakness. 


(43-50 

43-51. The next day he was minded to go forth into Galilee, and 
hndeth Philip and saith to him “Follow me”. Now Philip was 
from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth 
Nathanael and saith to him “We have found him of whom Moses 
in the Law and the Prophets did write, Jesus the son of Joseph, 
from Nazareth ”. And Nathanael said to him “ Out of Nazareth 
can any good tiling come? ” Philip saith to him “ Come and see 
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him and saith of him “ Behold, 



30 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

truly an Israelite in whom there is no Jacob! ” Nathanael saith to 
Him 44 Whence knowest thou me? ” Jesus answered and said to him 
44 Before Philip called thee, while thou wast under the fig-tree, I 
saw thee Nathanael answered Him 44 Rabbi, thou art the Son 
of God, thou art King of Israel Jesus answered and said to him, 
44 Because I said to thee 4 1 saw thee under the fig-tree * believest 
thou? Greater things than these thou shalt see.” And he saith 
to him 44 Amen, Amen, I say to you, ye shall see the heaven opened 
and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of 
Man”. 

He findeth Philip. Only one of all this group who 
become disciples is called by the Lord Himself. There 
is such a thing as a direct call without human inter- 
mediary; but it is rare. 

Philip findeth Nathanael. As soon as he becomes a 
disciple he also becomes a missionary; that is the only 
true discipleship. 

We have found. He carries on the exalted hope 
that breaks out in all this little band; and Nathanael 
will soon share it. But it is rather a flash than a steady 
glow of conviction. 

Out of Nazareth. Though there is no guile, yet 
there is some pride of tradition in this true Israelite. 
There is no answer to that but the challenge of experi- 
ence: Come and see. 

Behold , truly an Israelite. The Lord’s greeting pre- 
supposes that Nathanael had (like St. Augustine) gone 
under the fig-tree to meditate. While there he had 
been wrestling with God. This new movement, this 
new teacher — are they to be welcomed as from God? 
They are so unlike what men had learnt to expect. 
Above all, the place of origin. The contemptuous 
wonder of the reply to Philip — Out of Nazareth ? — 
expresses the stumbling-block in his own mind. So 
under the fig-tree he wrestled; and so long ago Jacob 
the supplanter had wrestled with God and had won 
the new name Israel ( Genesis xxxii, 24-29). The 
Lord hails this son of Israel as one in whom the Jacob- 
element of guile is not to be found. 



CHAPTER I 


3i 

Whence knowest thou me? How can you so in- 
timately enter into my secret thoughts ? 

Before Philip called thee. My sympathy had reached 
you before your friend broke in with the news that so 
strangely chimed in with your thoughts. 

Thou art the Son of God , thou art King of Israel. 
The fullest Messianic title yet used. Note the strongly 
Hebraic mentality for which it is in the order of 
climax to pass from Son of God to King of Israel. So 
Our Lord is hailed at the outset with the title that will 
be used in mockery as He hangs on the Cross (St. 
Mark xv, 32) and will in its less theocratic form be set 
up over the Cross itself (xix, 19). 

Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, 
believest thou? Here, as where the parallel construction 
is used in the words to St. Thomas (xx, 29), the 
emphasis is on the contrast between the faith expressed 
and the inadequacy of its alleged ground. “ Do you 
mean to say it is because I said ‘ I saw you ’ that you 
believe? No; of course it is not. It is because of that 
honest wrestling with doubt in which you showed 
yourself a true son of Israel. And now I will promise 
you greater things, still figured by the experience of 
the same Patriarch.” He had seen a ladder set up to 
heaven and “ the angels of God ascending and descend- 
ing on it ”. They bore the needs and prayers of men 
to the Lord “ who stood above it ” and brought back 
his blessing and judgement (Genesis xxviii, 12, 13). 
God was far off, and messengers went to and fro. But 
now Te shall see the heaven opened and the angels of God 
ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. No 
ladder now; the Messiah Himself is the meeting 
point of human need and divine blessing or judgement. 
But it is at once the Messiah in glory — for the 
apocalyptic association of the title Son of Man is 
inescapable, and also the Messiah in His utter humanity 
— for the phrase also retains this significance. And 
when we have fully learnt what is the glory of our 



32 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

God and of His Christ we shall see that no reconcilia- 
tion of these two is called for; they are the same. 

He has not refused the Messianic title; and He 
has spoken of a Messianic revelation. But He has 
not claimed the title; and He does not affirm that the 
Son of Man is Himself. 

Amen, Amen I say to you. This is the first use of a 
phrase characteristic of the Johannine Christ; with 
the single “ Amen ” it is familiar also in the Synoptists. 
The actual term that He used is retained in the Greek 
version, as is the term “Abba” ( Romans viii, 15; 
Galatians iv, 6) because it so vividly recalled Him and 
had gained from His use of it a special value. It is a 
term of strong asseveration. If attached to a petition 
it means “So be it ” ; if attached to a statement it 
means “ Verily ”. Being a familiar word, and the 
very word uttered by the Lord, it is kept in this 
translation. 


In what precedes I have tried to interpret this first 
chapter in a manner compatible with the Synoptist 
narrative, in which the Confession made by Simon 
Peter at Caesarea Philippi is both a novelty and a 
turning point. So much of this chapter has the “ feel ” 
of exact memory that I am uneasy about an inter- 
pretation which involves a view<of it as pervasively 
influenced by an imagination stimulated by later 
beliefs; and I am convinced that the Marcan frame- 
work is substantially reliable. So I am led to regard 
the striking confessions here as what I have called 
them — outbursts of an exalted hope rather than 
formulations of settled conviction. As such they 
strike the keynote of the Gospel. For though in the 
process of the historical event the disciples passed 
from one stage of apprehension to another, yet we are 
now to read the story as Christians who at every stage 
“ behold His glory 



CHAPTER II 

(i) The First of the Seven Signs 

In the body of this Gospel — apart from the Epilogue 
— seven signs or miracles are recorded. “ Sign ” is 
the word chosen by St. John to describe them, and he 
thus warns us that their meaning is something beyond, 
themselves. Moreover the fact that he selects seven 
is a way of telling his readers that they are not to be 
read as mere episodes but as conveying a special truth 
which finds expression only in the whole series taken 
together. We may set out the signs and their signific- 
ance in parallel columns thus (for this purpose we may 
assume the familiar order of the chapters) : 

1. The turning of water The difference that Christ 

into wine: ii, i-ii makes 

2. The healing of the Faith the only requisite 
nobleman’s son : iv, 46- 

54 

3. The healing of the im- Christ the restorer of lost 

potent man: v, 2-9 powers 

4. The feeding of the five Christ the Food by which 

thousand: vi, 4-13 we live 

5. The walking on the Christ our Guide 

water: vi, 16-21 

6. The healing of the man Christ our Light 
born blind: ix, 1-7 

7. The raising of Lazarus: Christ our Life 
xi, 1-44 

1 . Our first intercourse with Christ — such as we 
have watched in the typical instances recorded in ; 
Chapter I — brings about a change like that from 
water to wine. Christ is not a grim task-master in 
obedience to whom life becomes gloomy. He com- 

33 



34 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

pared himself to children playing at weddings in 
contrast with John the Baptist whom He compared to 
children playing at funerals (<SV. Luke vii, 31-35; St. 
Matthew xi, 16-19). Joy is one of the fruits of His 
Spirit. We wholly fail to represent Him to men if we 
fail to make men see this in our lives. 

2. But if we are to receive Him with His joy and 
His peace, we must ourselves put trust in Him. And 
it must not be a coerced belief (iv, 48) but a free 
acceptance of Him as Lord because of what we see 
Him to be. 

3. When we first come to Him we are not fresh 
and unspoilt. Some quality of excellence — of strength 
or influence or natural charm — which was part of 
God’s endowment of our nature, has already been 
damaged by our worldliness, selfishness or sensuality. 
And we cannot ourselves restore what is so lost. We 
cannot make real that “ face of our birth ” — the man 
God made us to be — which we see sometimes in the 
mirror of the divine “ Law of liberty ” (St. James i, 
23-25). But Christ can do this for us. 

4. When the consecrating touch has changed our 
life as from water to wine; when we have begun, at 
least, to fulfil the condition of loyal trust; we have to 
appreciate our continual dependence upon Him for all 
the strength with which to serve Him. He offers 
Himself to be our daily food, that we may “ feed 
upon Him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving ”. 

5. So built up by His life, given that it may be 
ours, we find that He is our constant guide; and if, 
when we are battling with the storms of life, we 
welcome Him to be our companion, immediately we 
are at the haven where we would be. 

6. But He is more than our Guide; the term 
suggests an external presence, pointing out the way. 
He is the very Light of Life whereby we see the way. 

7. And even more than this : not only our strength, 
our guide, our light — He is to us Life itself. • “ I 



CHAPTER II 


35 

live, yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me ” (Gala- 
tians ii, 20). 

* 

1-1 1. And the third day a marriage took place in Cana of Galilee, 
and the mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus also was called, and 
his disciples, to the marriage. And, the wine failing, the mother of 
Jesus saith to him “ They have no wine And Jesus saith to her 
“ Woman, leave me to myself; mine hour is not yet come His 
mother saith to the servants “ Whatsoever he saith to you, do it 
Now there were six water pots of stone, set after the manner of 
the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 
Jesus saith to them “ Fill the water pots with water And they 
filled them up to the brim. And he saith to them “ Draw now 
and bear unto the ruler of the feast”. And they bare it. And 
when the ruler of the feast tasted the water which had become 
wine and knew not whence it was (but the servants who had drawn 
the water knew) the ruler calleth the bridegroom and saith to him 
“ Every man first setteth on the good wine, and when men have 
well drunk, the less good; but thou hast kept the good wine until 
now This as a beginning of his signs Jesus wrought in Cana 
of Galilee and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed on 
him. 

The third day. In i, 43 we were told of the Lord’s 
intention to go to Galilee. It was a three days’ journey. 
The party arrives to find the marriage feast in full 
course. Already the mother of Jesus was there , and was 
apparently in some position of responsibility as her 
concern about the wine and her instructions to the 
servants shew. When the Lord and His disciples 
appear, they are at once called in. But this involves 
the addition of unexpected guests — seven of them if 
all mentioned in the last chapter are there. This puts 
a strain on the provision that had been made, which 
would account for Mary’s concern, though not for her 
direction to the servants. When, as a result of the 
addition to the party, the wine had failed, she calls her 
Son’s attention to this consequence of His presence 
and that of His disciples. But He has noticed it, and 
knows what He means to do. 

Woman , leave me to myself. No English phrase will 



3 6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

represent the original, unless we depart very far from 
it. For us the word “ Woman ” is unfamiliar as a 
mode of address, and has about it a repellent tone. 
In the Greek it is perfectly respectful and can even be 
tender — as in xix, 27, Woman , behold thy son . We 
have no corresponding term; “ Lady ” is precious, 
and “ Madam ” is formal. So we must translate 
simply, and let the context give the tone. But un- 
happily the next words are as difficult. Here too there 
is no harshness in the original. The phrase “ What 
to me and to thee? ” is a Greek translation of a Hebrew 
idiom; it is quite colourless emotionally. Jephthah 
uses it to the Ammonites when he is ready to fight 
them ( 'Judges xi, 1 2). Something like “ leave me 
alone ” best represents it; but imports a touch of 
petulance which is out of place. Perhaps the sense 
would be carried by “ It is all right. It is not time for 
me yet.” 

Mine hour here immediately refers to His action in 
face of the emergency; but it means more; it means 
the hour for manifesting His glory (n); and so it 
carries the suggestion that this coming manifestation 
is very partial and, as it were, preliminary. Contrast 
xvii, 1, Father , the hour is come; glorify thy Son — - 
spoken on the threshold of the Passion. 

His mother, now satisfied that He will do what is 
needed, tells the servants to obey whatever He com- 
mands. He bids them fill with water the huge water- 
pots (1 firkin=8f gallons), now nearly or quite empty 
because the feast is near its end and the water has been 
freely drawn for the washing both of hands and of 
vessels used in the feast. 

The water that had become wine. There is no 
possibility of doubt that the Evangelist means to 
record a “ miracle ”. And it makes little difference 
whether we take him to mean that all the water in the 
stone pots had become wine, or only that which was 
drawn by the servants to supply what was needed. In 



CHAPTER II 


37 

any case the Creator of matter is exercising His lord- 
ship over it; “ the modest water saw its God and 
blushed 

Every man at the beginning. There is a trace of 
emphasis on man\ the word is introduced, as, in the 
Greek, it need not have been; and for us, though not 
for the ruler, a contrast is implicit. For here we come 
to a secondary meaning of this sign. The first is the 
change effected by the touch of Christ upon our life; 
the second is the reminder that there is always more 
and better to come. Every man puts forward first 
what is best about him. When people first meet us, 
they find us civil, friendly, considerate; but as they 
come to know us, especially if they have to live with 
us, they have to put up with the less good — that which 
is worse . But in our communion with God it is not so; 
as we deepen our fellowship with Him, made known 
in Christ, at every stage we may say Thou hast kept 
the good wine until now . 

Manifested his glory . To whom? Not to all men. 
The ruler of the feast did not know the origin of the 
wine which he praised. The servants knew, and, 
doubtless, wondered. But only to His disciples (we 
beheld His glory) was the glory manifest; and they 
believed on Him. 

They are first called “ disciples ” at the beginning 
of this narrative; and by that name they are designated 
throughout this Gospel. It is as learners that we are 
to think of them, and to take our place among them. 

His disciples believed on Him . It is the phrase ex- 
pressive of personal trust. They are not here said to 
believe Him, in the sense of believing that what He 
said was true, but to commit themselves to Him in 
personal trust. 

This is the faith which justifies. To believe true 
doctrine concerning Christ may help us to believe on 
Him; but for our spiritual welfare this latter is alone 
vital. For the Church, commissioned to transmit to 



38 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

all generations the true doctrine which may elicit 
saving faith, heresy is more deadly than hypocrisy or 
even than conscious sin; but for the individual the 
one vital matter is personal trust, and accepted heresy 
in its effect upon his soul may be quite unimportant. 
There have been saintly heretics and orthodox world- 
lings. Vast confusion has arisen because men have not 
distinguished between the functions of the Church and 
of the individual believer in the economy of the divine 
purpose. To the Church heresy is more destructive 
than conscious sin; to the individual conscious sin is 
more destructive than heresy ; to both, idolatry — 
worship of God falsely conceived — is deadlier than 
either heresy or sin, for it is the prolific source of each. 

* 

12. After this lie went down to Capernaum, he and his mother and 
his brethren and his disciples; and there they remained not many 
days. 

It is not quite easy to see why this visit to Caper- 
naum is recorded. Perhaps St. John’s motive is to 
supply the background of the demand which the Lord 
is recorded to have anticipated at Nazareth at the end 
of His first sermon there after the beginning of His 
ministry (St. Luke iv, 23). 

* 

(2) The Cleansing of the Temple 

13-17. And the Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to 
Jerusalem. And He found in the temple the sellers of oxen and 
sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting. And having 
made a scourge of small cords he drove them all out of the temple, 
both the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the changers’ 
money and overthrew the tables; and to the dove-sellers he said 
“ Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house 
of merchandise ”. His disciples remembered that it is written : 
“ The zeal of thine house will devour me 



CHAPTER II 


39 

The first visit to Jerusalem since the ministry 
began. His coming means a purge. So it is always, 
not less with the shrine of our hearts than with the 
Jewish Temple. The place which should be ordered 
with the reverence appropriate to the dwelling-place of 
God is cluttered up with worldly ambitions, anxieties 
about our possessions, designs to get the better of our 
neighbours. This traffic of the Temple courts was 
more than a profanity against the holy place; it was 
an exploitation of the people. The High Priests 
insisted that the Temple dues should be paid in Jewish 
coins — not Roman coins stamped with the image of a 
heathen emperor. And they provided an exchange — 
at which a large percentage was deducted. Also they 
arranged for the convenience of worshippers, and 
incidentally their own large profit, to sell the animals 
needed for sacrifice. These “ booths of Annas ” 
were an object of detestation. But none had dared 
to attack them forcibly. They had the sanction of 
custom ; they were not illegal. But it does not appear 
that the Lord proposed any “compensation” for their 
“eviction”. 

It is a tremendous scene. The Lord dominates the 
multitude by the righteousness of His energy and the 
energy of His righteousness ! 

And at once there is that division among those who 
witness the scene, which St. John records as being the 
almost invariable result of the words and actions of 
the Lord. We shall bring all these together in con- 
nexion with a key-saying in the next chapter (iii, 19). 
The disciples remembered a prophecy ( Psalm lxix, 9) 
and realised that they had witnessed its fulfilment. 
The Jews were (very naturally) outraged and demanded 
some justification. 

* 

18-22. The Jews therefore answered and said to him, u What sign 
shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? ” Jesus 



4 o READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

answered and said to them “Destroy this temple, and in three 
days I will raise it up The Jews therefore said “ Forty and six 
years was this temple in building, and thou — wilt thou raise jt up in 
three days? ” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. When 
therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered 
that he spake this; and they believed the scripture and the word 
which Jesus had said. 

The Lord had exercised authority, but also He had 
made a claim which demanded vindication. He had 
called the Temple My Father's house. It was not a new 
thought to Him. Long ago when His mother and St. 
Joseph had sought Him sorrowing, He had said “ Did 
you not know that 1 was bound to be in my Father’s 
house ? ” (St. Luke ii, 49). In His indignation He has 
used it now • — not (we may suppose) with any inten- 
tion of making a peculiar claim, but because in the 
moment of tension His relationship, to the Father 
whose house is profaned forces its way to spontaneous 
utterance. But the words have been spoken and the 
deeds done. What are His credentials? What evidence 
can He give that He really holds the divine com- 
mission which He has apparently executed? 

Vain enquiry! When God speaks to either the 
heart or the conscience He does not first prove His 
right to do so. The divine command is its own 
evidence, and the heart or conscience that is not 
utterly numbed by complacent sin recognises its 
inherent authority. 

Yet He offers a sign; it is a sign which only those 
whose hearts are already His will be able to accept 
(xx, 29); but that is essential to His whole purpose, 
which positively forbids the winning by irresistible 
proof of unwilling adherents to His cause. 

The Temple — the habitation of God among men 
— is the subject as well as the scene of the controversy. 
Very well; let it furnish the sign demanded. Destroy 
this Temple — not an empty challenge, but a judge- 
ment on their mentality and policy which will involve 
the destruction of the Temple (St. Luke xix, 41-44). 



CHAPTER II 


4i 

And in three days I will raise up what shall thereafter 
be the habitation of God among men, that Risen 
Body which after the Ascension and Pentecost finds its 
earthly manifestation in that “ holy temple in the Lord, 
in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation 
of God in the Spirit ” ( Ephesians ii, 21-22). 

Of course the Jews cannot understand, and it was 
only later that the disciples understood. The Jews 
would remember the saying to another purpose. They 
would put up false witnesses who would accuse Him 
of saying “ I will destroy this temple made with hands 
and in three days I will build another made without 
hands ” (St. Mark xiv, 58). That was not what He 
said. He did not say He would destroy the Temple, 
but put forward the supposition that the Jews would. 
To that He answered that this would make no differ- 
ence to the dwelling of God among men. He Himself 
would, in a period so short as to be negligible, supply 
that dwelling-place of God. 

In three days. The phrase is taken from Hosea vi, 2, 
“ After two days will he revive us, on the third day he 
will raise us up ”. Its meaning has been expressed 
above. 

He was speaking. Of course this does not mean that 
the words “ Destroy this Temple ” referred to His 
body. Obviously those words refer to Herod’s struc- 
ture. But what gives meaning to His words is the 
fact that spiritually His body fulfils the function which 
the Temple was built to fulfil. 

It is true that in mere chronology the destruction 
of the Temple as a physical structure took place after 
■ its substitute was already provided. But it had lost its 
meaning. It was no longer in any true sense the 
Temple. At the date of the controversy which we are 
studying it was still my Father's house. Before the 
ministry ends it is “ your house ” — “ Your house is 
left unto you desolate ” (St. Luke xiii, 35). 



42 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

23-25. Now when he was in Jerusalem at the feast, many trusted on 
his name, beholding his signs which he was doing. But on his part 
Jesus did not trust himself to them owing to the fact that he knew 
all men and because he had no need that any should bear witness 
concerning any man; for he himself knew what was in the man. 

His activity at this first Passover of the ministry 
wins some disciples in Jerusalem. But their faith at 
present rests on His signs — outward works — which 
is later marked as no more than a second best (xiv, 1 1). 
Consequently the Lord does not commit Himself to 
them; for He always knew what anyone — friend or 
foe — had in him. He never needed to ask concern- 
ing any who came to Him, for He knew what was 
in the man, as He had known all about Nathanael, 
(i, 47-48). It is not only the Fourth Gospel that so 
represents Him. In the Synoptic record also He 
appears as always acting towards all men with com- 
plete sureness of touch. 

He did not trust himself to them because he knew. Yet 
now that He is ascended, He calls us into His Church 
to be members of His Body — that Temple of God 
which He raised up when, breaking the bands of 
death, He revived the ancient Church of God which 
two days earlier had found in Him its only repre- 
sentative as He went forth alone to die; and having 
revived it, He incorporated into it those whom His 
Gospel reached, so that we are now His limbs through 
which He speaks and acts. 

He knows us; and He does trust Himself to us! 


Note 

The difference between St. John and St. Mark 
with regard to the date of the Cleansing of the Temple 
will be discussed when we reach Chapter XI. St. 
John is right about it. 



CHAPTER III 


(i) The Conversation with Nicodemus (1-17) 

x-15. Now there was a man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus was his 
name, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to him by night and 
said to him, 44 Rabbi, we know that thou art come from God as a 
teacher; for no one can do these signs that thou doest unless God 
be with him Jesus answered and said unto him 44 Amen, Amen 
I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom 
of God Nicodemus saith unto him, 44 How can a man be born 
when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s 
womb and be bom? ” Jesus answered 44 Amen, Amen I say to 
thee, unless a man be born of water and spirit, he cannot enter 
into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is 
flesh; and that which is born, of the spirit is spirit. Marvel not 
that I said to thee 4 Ye must be born again The wind — 
bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest its voice, but thou 
knowest not whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every 
one that is born of the spirit.” Nicodemus answered and said 
to him, 44 How can these things come to pass? ” Jesus answered 
and said to him, 44 Art thou the teacher of Israel, and dost thou not 
recognise these things? Amen, Amen I say to thee that what we 
know we speak and what we have seen we testify; and ye receive 
not our testimony. If I told you earthly things and ye believe not, 
how, if I tell you heavenly things, shall ye believe? And no one hath 
gone up to heaven but he that came down out of heaven, the Son 
of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, 
so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that everyone that belie veth 
on him may have eternal Life. For God so loved the world that 
he gave his only begotten Son, that every one that believeth on him 
may not perish but have eternal Life. For God sent not the Son 
into the world to judge the world, but that the world may be 
saved through him. 

Here we see the Lord in conversation with the highly 
placed ecclesiastic, who, after the manner of his kind, 
is cautious and diplomatic. He is genuinely impressed. 
He recognises that the new movement is from God, or 
at any rate is to some extent approved by God. But 
he does not want to commit himself irrecoverably. If 

43 



44 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

he comes out into the open, he will lose influence in 
the exalted quarters in which he moves, and incidentally 
forfeit the power to help the new movement which a 
friend in those quarters could exert. So he comes by 
night to where the Lord is seated with his disciples 
among the olives on the hill-side — perhaps in that 
garden where Jesus oft-times resorted (xviii, 2). 

He begins with compliments; we need not doubt 
their sincerity though we taste their diplomatic flavour. 
We know that thou art come from God to teach us; for no 
one can do these signs that thou doest unless God be with 
him . We notice that it is not the quality of the teaching 
but the evidence of the signs that has won this measure 
of recognition and approval; at the most then, it is 
the second-best kind of recognition (xiv, 11). Still, it 
is recognition of a sort. 

But compliments are swept aside. Diplomatic 
approaches are out of place; sympathetic interest is no 
good. A new start — that is what is needed. The 
burden of the Lord’s teaching has been the imminence 
of the Kingdom of God. It is as a teacher that Nico- 
demus has greeted him — a teacher divinely authenti- 
cated. Well — the theme of His discourse is the 
Kingdom ; and it is something that Nicodemus cannot 
so much as look upon unless he makes that new start. 
Unless a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of 
God . See — look upon ; he cannot even know what it 
is that we are talking about. 

Born again or born from above ? The Greek words 
carry both meanings, and it is not necessary to choose. 
The element “ again ” is here primary; but that new 
birth has only one source. A man cannot accomplish 
it for himself — as Nicodemus knows and is quick to 
point out; “ How can a man be born when [ like me] he is 
old ? ” This Church-leader has inherited a great tradi- 
tion, for he was a Pharisee; he has tested it in the 
experience of life ; he has conformed to it his habits of 
conduct, speech, thought and feeling. How can he 



CHAPTER III 


45 

break away from all this and begin again? It is as 
hard as it would be literally to return to his mother's 
womb and be born . 

All the same, that is what is wanted. And there is 
a power that can accomplish it, though no man, truly, 
could do it for himself. Unless a man be born of water 
and spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God . There 
could be no doubt in the mind of Nicodemus what is 
meant by being born of water . The baptism of John 
was an institution known to all. The first step needed 
is openly to become an adherent of John's revival, the 
mission of repentance, in which has sounded after so 
long a silence the authentic voice of prophecy. That 
first; but that is not enough, John was greater than 
all before him, yet not so great as the lesser in the 
Kingdom of Heaven (St, Luke vii, 28; St. Matthew 
xi, 1 1). To enter that Kingdom something more is 
needed than open adherence to John the Baptist. The 
Baptist himself contrasted what he could do for men 
through baptism with water with what his Successor 
would do through baptism with holy spirit and fire. 
That too is needed — for which the condition ' is 
discipleship to Christ. In other words — You must 
do what these disciples of mine have done; first openly 
seek John's baptism, and then openly join this company, 
among whom the power of the new birth, the new life, 
is moving. For life cannot any more than water rise 
above its source. If its source is flesh, at that level it 
remains; if its source is spirit, that quality will be 
apparent in it. That which is born of the flesh is flesh ; 
and that which is born of the spirit is spirit . 

But now that the Lord has spoken of the manner 
of the new birth. He no longer connects with this the 
ability only to see or to look upon the Kingdom of God 
as an objective fact; He connects with it the power to 
enter into the Kingdom — to know it from within by 
personal experience of it. And this is possible for all, 
because the power is at work. There should be no 



46 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

occasion to marvel at this thought of the fresh start. 
An illustration is to hand. The rustling of the olive 
trees speaks of the movement of the wind. The Greek 
word for spirit has the suggestion of breath or wind; 
the Hebrew word — Ruach — actually means the 
desert-wind, that powerful unseen force that sweeps 
across the face of the earth, none knows whence or 
whither. The wind — the Spirit — it bloweth where it 
listeth, and thou hearest its voice , hut thou knowest not 
whence it cometh and whither it goeth. But you can feel 
its breath on your face if, hearing it pass, you go out 
and stand in its course. So is everyone that is horn of the 
Spirit. Don’t ask for credentials. Don’t wait till you 
know the source of the wind before you let it refresh 
you, or its destination before you spread sail to it. It 
offers what you need; trust yourself to it. 

But for Nicodemus this only makes matters worse. 
God has given the Law, and by devout labour trusted 
leaders have worked out its application. He has made 
a covenant with His people and they know their part 
in response to it. This talk of the freely blowing wind 
is destructive of the sacred fabric of institutional 
religion. How can these things come to pass? 

And now the Lord turns upon him in sheer amaze- 
ment. Do you mean to say that you are an accredited 
teacher of Israel and cannot recognise the experience of 
which I speak? Why, with us it is the barest common- 
place of intercourse with God. What we know , we 
speak; and what we have seen, we testify. Our witness 
is drawn from undeniable experience; and yet ye 
receive not our testimony. And if you cannot believe 
what to us is an everyday experience of our earthly 
life, how can you become receptive to those higher 
truths which belong to the life of heaven and which 
I am come to make known. If I told you earthly things 
and ye believe not, how , if I tell you heavenly things , 
shall ye believe? 

For of those truths there is only one messenger. 



CHAPTER III 


47 

You cannot go to heaven and find them; they can be 
declared only by one who comes from heaven, the 
representative of God in whom human nature finds its 
true expression. No one hath gone up to heaven hut he 
that came down out of heaven y the Son of Man , 

The Son of Man — that title which represents at 
once the Messiah in his glory and the fulfilment of 
all that humanity can be and is meant to be. The 
revelation of divine truth in human nature and the 
manifestation of all that human nature is meant by 
God to be, are not two things but one. For man was 
created in the image of God, and when he corresponds 
to the divine intention, he is the image of God. But 
only in one instance has that conformity been com- 
plete, so that He alone is the “ image of the invisible 
God ” ( Colossians i, 15); and He came down out of 
heaven . 

Some ancient student has added here the words 
which is in heaven . Whatever their origin, they repre- 
sent a most important truth. The Second Person of 
the Blessed Trinity was no less in heaven during the 
period of the earthly ministry than either before or 
after it. What we see as we watch the life of Jesus is 
the very life of heaven — indeed of God — in human 
expression. 

And now comes a first hint of the heavenly things. 
It is not enough that the Son of Man should come 
down out of heaven ; He must be lifted up. The necessity 
— must — is grounded in the nature of God. Because 
God is what He is, this “ lifting up ” is inevitable. 
But as yet its meaning is undisclosed. In itself the 
word suggests triumph; and that is part of the mean- 
ing. But the reference to the serpent in the wilderness 
makes it clear that something more specific is in view. 
What that is becomes plain when He says, “ if I be 
lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me ” 
(xii, 32, 33). But here that reference to the Cross is 
not yet so clear as to obscure in any degree the thought 

E 



48 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

of triumph : so we are prepared to have the thought of 
triumph in our minds as we approach the Cross, and 
to enter into the great Johannine apprehension that 
the Passion is the divine Glory. 

The Passion could not be this if it were barren of 
results; but its purpose is known — that every one 
that believeth on him may have eternal Lif e. 

So we come to the central declaration, more central 
for Christian faith than even The Word became flesh ; 
for that depends for its inexhaustible wealth of meaning 
on the actual mode of the Incarnate Life. But here is 
the whole great truth. God so loved the world that he 
gave his only begotten Son , that everyone that believeth on 
him may not perish , but have eternal Life . This is the 
heart of the Gospel. Not “ God is Love ” — a precious 
truth, but affirming no divine act for our redemption. 
God so loved that he gave\ of course the words indicate 
the cost to the Father’s heart. He gave ; it was an act, 
not only a continuing mood of generosity; it was an 
act at a particular time and place. “ Blessed be the 
Lord God. of Israel ” — it is not a universally diffused 
divine essence of which we speak, but the Living God 
— “ for he hath visited and redeemed his people ”. 

No object is sufficient for the love of God short of 
the world itself. Christianity is not one more religion 
of individual salvation, differing from its fellows only 
in offering a different road to that goal. It is the one 
and only religion of world-redemption. Of course it 
includes a way of individual salvation as the words 
before and after this great saying shew. But its scope 
is wider than that — as wide as the love of God. It is 
a sin of the world that Christ takes away (i, 29). 

Thus is opened up a new conception of the Son of 
Man and the Day of the Lord. Devout Jews looked 
forward to the Coming of the Son of Man as meaning 
redemption for themselves but judgement for the 
world. It is not so. Judgement may be, must be, an 
incidental consequence of the Coming; but its purpose 



CHAPTER III 


49 

is salvation for all the world. God sent not his Son into 
the world to judge the worlds hut that the world may be 
saved through him. 

Here, as I read it, St. John’s version of the Lord’s 
discourse to Nicodemus ends, and his own comment 
begins. We have been led a long way from the open- ! 
ing. And yet the great saying God so loved the world 
is in no way alien from the opening words about the 
Lord as a teacher and that Kingdom which was the i 
burden of His teaching. For this great saying states \ 
the mode of His sovereignty, and therefore also the I 
quality of His Kingdom. The throne of that King- \ 
dom in this world is a Cross and its crown is made \ 
of thorns. It is this revolutionary disclosure which I 
gives ground for the sharp dismissal of diplomatic j 
compliments. The whole conception of the Kingdom 
is so novel that only those who are ready to make a j 
new start can even see it, let alone enter into it. 

It is a familiar experience to know and accept the 
verbal statement of the great truths with minds that 
continue to find them novel; still the new start is 
necessary if the heirs of a partially Christian civilisation 
are to see or to enter the Kingdom of God. Always 
the breath — the wind — of the Spirit is moving. 

We know it by its effect. We have no need to ask for 
its authentication — Is it Protestant? Is it Catholic? 
Where the fruit of the Spirit {Galatians v, 22, 23) is 
apparent, there the Spirit is at work. We should 
place ourselves in its course that we may be carried by 
its impulse, even though this leads us to, association 
with strange comrades — as, no doubt, the Galilean 
fishermen seemed to Nicodemus. For whatever pro- 
motes among men love and joy and peace has its source 
in that divine love which sent the Son into the world, 
not to judge the world, but that the world may he saved 
through him • 



50 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 


(2) Salvation and Judgement 

18-21. He that believeth on him is not under judgement. He that 
believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed 
on the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the 
judgement, that the light is come into the world, and men loved 
rather the darkness than the light; for evil were their works. For 
every one that doeth ill hateth the light, and cometh not to the 
light, that his works may not be put to the test. But he that doeth 
the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest 
that in God they have been wrought. 

The belief in question is more than opinion, or even 
conviction. It is personal trust. This includes a con- 
viction, explicit or implicit. If it remains implicit there 
will be little harm done through its being erroneous in 
some particular; and therefore we need not disturb 
the naive convictions of simple people. But if it 
becomes explicit it is important that it be rightly 
balanced; otherwise at some time or other it will 
occasion loss of trust to others if not to the man who 
holds the distorted or heretical view. 

One who so trusts in the name — the manifested 
nature — of the only begotten Son of God is not under 
judgement. In St. Paul’s language he is “ in Christ ”. 
And assuredly “ there is no condemnation to them that 
are in Christ Jesus ” ( Romans viii, 1). But that implies 
a completeness of trust to which very few of us have 
attained. Most of us do not either believe in this full 
sense or disbelieve. We believe enough to wish that 
we believed more; “ I believe; help thou mine un- 
belief” [St. Mark ix, 24); and even this is enough to 
earn the longed-for boon. 

We can hardly remain in an equipoise between 
belief and unbelief. We are inclining to one side or 
the other. As a wise man once said, “ There’s God 
and there’s yourself; and you are settling down on 
one or the other ”. If a man refuses belief — trust — ■ 
in the manifested nature of the Son of God, he hath 
been judged already. There is no further verdict 



CHAPTER III 


needed; his conduct finds him guilty. His failure to 
accept the revelation when it comes is itself the judge- 
ment on the character he has been forming. 

For the essence of judgement is not the sentence 
but the verdict, the discrimination between the ap- 
proved and the condemned. The Cross itself, the very 
means of redemption, is an agent of that discrimination, 
that judgement. “ For the word of the Cross is to 
them that are perishing foolishness, but to us who are 
being saved it is the power of God ” (I Corinthians 
i, 18). The offer of salvation involves judgement, 
and (for those who refuse the offer) condemnation. 
For this is the [process of\ judgement, that the light is come 
into the world , and men loved rather the darkness than 
the light. We recall the words of the Prologue: There 
was the light , that lighteth every man , coming into the world 
(i, 9). No greater gift can be offered to men; yet 
many refuse it. They loved the darkness rather than the 
light. That is their choice ; there is nothing worse that 
can be done to them after that. 

So the presence in the world of Christ who is the 
light of the world issues, automatically so to speak, in 
the judgement of the world. To make this clear is 
one purpose of the Evangelist. The Fourth Gospel is 
in a special sense the Gospel of Judgement. It shews 
the Lord moving among men and sifting them. 
Judgement is not the purpose of His coming (iii, 1 7 ; 
cf. I judge no man , viii, 15;/ came not to judge the world 
hut to save the world, xii, 47, 48); yet His coming 
issues in judgement (cf. Neither doth the Father judge 
any man, but he hath given all judgement unto the Son, 
v, 22; He gave him authority to execute judgement, v, 27; 
For judgement came I into this world, ix, 39). The 
reconciling thought is here — that the judgement con- 
sists in the coming of the light and men’s refusal of it. 

Accordingly at the close of very many episodes we 
are shewn the discrimination in process. The healing 
of the impotent man leads the Jews to persecute Jesus 



52 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

(v, 1 6) ; the discourse on the Bread of Life leads to a 
great defection of adherents (vi, 66); later the division 
among His hearers becomes more marked (vii, 12; 
30, 31, 435 vii h 3°; 19-21; xi, 45, 46; xii, 37, 

42). The Lord speaks and acts; by their reaction 
men are judged. 

For everyone that doeth ill hateth the light and cometh 
not to the light , lest his works may he -put to the test. It is 
not only fear of discovery and punishment that keeps 
him away. He shrinks from the appearance that he 
will present in that illumination and in that contrast. 
Edward Caird once said, “ Poetry is the criticism of 
life in the sense in which a good man is the criticism 
of a bad man ”. And the bad man resents that form of 
criticism ! 

But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light , that his 
works may be made manifest that in God they have been 
wrought. A right act is, as Westcott says, “ so much 
of truth made visible So to do good and to do the 
truth are identical. But the phrase is specially appro- 
priate in the context of the light that brings judge- 
ment; it suggests the openness and straightforwardness 
of right doing, in contrast with the concealment which 
is a part of all falsehood. Such right action is always 
wrought in God. We “ cannot do anything that is 
good without ”, that is apart from, God. And when a 
doer of the truth is set beside the true light it becomes 
evident that he has been guided by that illumination. 

* 

22-24. After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land 
of Judaea; and there he tarried with them and baptised. And 
John also was baptising at Fountains near to Peace, because water 
was abundant there. And men continued to come and were 
baptised. For not yet had John been cast into prison. 

The Lord left Judaea at the end of Chapter I; the 
ministry was then only beginning and He had not 



CHAPTER III 


53 

preached in public. In ii, 1-12 we find Him in Cana 
of Galilee and Capernaum. In ii, 13 He returns and 
the Judaean ministry begins. He preaches first in the 
Temple itself (ii, 16); then in Jerusalem (ii, 2 3— iii, 
17); then in Judaea (iii, 22-24). As He is rejected in 
each He moves further from the centre, until (iv, 3) 
He goes back to Galilee, which becomes the chief 
sphere of His activity, though He goes to Jerusalem 
for various feasts, and when there continues His teach- 
ing. Rejection by the headquarters of the Jewish 
Church is already in process; the judgement has 
begun. 

And now for a while the Lord and His Forerunner 
are working side by side. There is a symbolism in the 
name of the place which John had chosen — Fountains 
near to Peace. For John called men to repentance, 
and he who truly repents has found the peace of God. 

This proximity gives rise to questions, which call 
forth the Baptist's last testimony to the Lord. 

# 

25-30. There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John’s 
disciples with a Jew about purifying. And they came to John and 
said to him “ Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom 
thou hast borne witness, behold he baptiseth and all are coming 
to him John answered and said “A man cannot take to himselr 
anything, unless it have been given to him out of heaven. Ye your- 
selves bear me witness that I said 4 1 am not the Christ but that I 
have been sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom. 
But the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, 
with joy rejoiceth because of the voice of the bridegroom. This 
joy, therefore, which is mine, hath been fulfilled. He must increase, 
but I must decrease.” 

While they worked close together it became ap- 
parent that more were going to the Lord than to John 
(cf. iv, 1). A Jew, apparently, brought this informa- 
tion to some of John's company. These are naturally 
jealous for their master's honour. First they discuss 
the relative value of the two ministrations. Then they 



54 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

turn to their master with the news that has disturbed 
them. But it does not disturb him. He knows that 
if any man exercises power it is because God has given 
him that power; he cannot take it to himself, but 
receives from God whatever he has. Moreover, the 
Baptist had always said that his was a secondary part; 
he was a forerunner, not the Christ; he was a 44 best 
man ”, not the bridegroom. But he is the bride- 
groom’s friend, and with joy rejoiceth because of the 
voice of the bridegroom . 

In the growing influence of Jesus John finds his 
own joy fulfilled. Is not this near to the perfection of 
humility and self-abnegation? It is hard to lead multi- 
tudes and find that another is leading greater multi- 
tudes. It is harder still to rejoice at it. Yet that is the 
very quality of the Baptist’s joy. The joy that is mine 
hath been fulfilled. He must increase , but I must decrease . 

The Evangelist adds his comment. It was truly 
necessary that the Lord should increase and the Baptist 
decrease, for he that cometh from above is above alL 

* 

31-36. He that cometh from above is above all. He that is from 
the earth is from the earth and speaketh from the earth. He that 
cometh from heaven beareth witness of what he hath seen and heard; 
and his witness no one receiveth. He that did receive his witness 
affixed his seal that God is true. For he whom God sent — the 
words of God he speaketh. For he giveth not the spirit by measure. 
The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into his hand. 
He that believeth on the Son hath Life; but he that disobeyeth 
the Son shall not see Life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. 

Every man must speak according to the spring and 
source of his moral being. If this is the earth he 
speaketh from the earth. This has no suggestion of 
evil; the Lord’s teaching about the free movement of 
the Spirit was an “ earthly thing ” ( 12 ); and in that 
sense John’s preaching was from the earth. It was 
indeed in another sense from heaven, for he was 



CHAPTER III 


SS 

assuredly moved by the Spirit of God. Yet his material, 
so to speak, was such experience, religious and other, 
as is possible to ordinary men. He that cometh from 
heaven heareth witness of what he hath seen and heard. 
Out of that union with the Father which is His alone 
the Lord draws heavenly knowledge which none can 
have but Himself and any who learn from Him. We 
recall the great saying in the Synoptists : “ All 

things have been delivered unto me of my Father; 
and no one knoweth who the Son is, save the Father; 
and who the Father is, save the Son and he to whom- 
soever the Son willeth to reveal him ” {St. Luke x, 22; 
St. Matthew xi, 27). 

No one receiveth. For a moment the Evangelist 
transports us into his own period, when for a while 
the Church seemed to make no progress. But it was 
not always so. There had been those who did receive 
his witness and have in most solemn manner committed 
themselves to the truth then revealed. 

He whom God hath sent — the words of God he 
speaketh. It is stated as a general truth; but it is 
stated on the basis of an actual memory — the memory 
of the days of discipleship when experience drew from 
Peter the exclamation Thou hast words of eternal Life 
(vi, 68). And the power to do this comes from the 
completeness of the spiritual endowment of the Christ. 
He (sc. God) giveth not the spirit by measure. The gift 
of God is always perfect and complete as He offers it. 
But we cannot receive it in its perfection because of 
our defect of faith. But in the Lord was no such 
defect, and He received the Spirit in all the fulness of 
the divine gift. 

The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things 
into his hand. We recall again the great saying quoted 
above, and also the all-embracing claim “ All authority 
hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth ” 
(St. Matthew xxviii, 1 8). 

So we come to the conclusion of the contrast 



56 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

between the Baptist and the Lord, and are carried 
back to what had been said concerning judgement. 
He that believeth on the Son hath eternal Life . We have 
already reminded ourselves that this u belief ” is the 
personal trust of complete self-committal. That com- 
mittal of ourselves does not earn eternal life; rather it 
is eternal life; cf, xvii, 3. 

He that disobeyeth the Son shall not see Life . It is 
not only that he cannot enter into it or possess it; he 
can never know what it is so long as his disobedience 
lasts. The presentation of the Gospel to the worldly 
minded always suffers under this disability, that the 
world confidently believes it to be something quite 
different from what it is. It cannot “ see ” it. So the 
deepest truths, such as the predestinating grace of God, 
are perverted and become the source of inferences 
contradictory to their real meaning. 1 So men think of 
eternal life as the everlasting happiness of a still self- 
centred soul. But it is nothing of the kind. It is 
fellowship with God in which our souls, so far as they 
are self-centred, can find no happiness. 

The wrath of God abideth on him . Terrible words. 
A sentimental and hedonist generation tries to eliminate 
“ wrath 99 from its conception of God. Of course, if 
“ anger ” and “ wrath ” are taken to mean the emo- 
tional reaction of an irritated self-concern, there is no 
such thing in God. But if God is holy love, and I am 
in any degree given to uncleanness or selfishness, then 
there is, in that degree, stark antagonism in God 
against me. And so long as I am disobedient that 
wrath of God continues. “ O terrible voice of most 
just judgement. . . 99 But let us, while we have the 
lights believe in the lights that we may become sons of light . 

1 For an elaboration of this theme see my Nature, Man and God, pp. 
378-381. 



CHAPTER IV 


1-4. When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard 
that “ Jesus is making and baptising more disciples than John ” 
(and yet Jesus himself was not baptising but his disciples) he left 
Judaea and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go 
through Samaria. 

The Pharisees were already hostile. They were hostile 
to John, and here is one who continues John's work 
with greater effectiveness. They were already hostile 
to Jesus, and His success is bound to quicken their 
hostility. So He left Judaea , and the word used sug- 
gests leaving it to its fate. He has been pressed back 
from the Temple to the city, from the city to the 
country-side. Now He leaves it altogether; and His 
way lies through Samaria. 


# 

5-26. He cometh therefore to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near 
the portion of ground that Jacob gave to Joseph his son. And there 
was there Jacob’s spring. Jesus therefore being wearied from his 
journey sat, as he was, by the spring. It was about the sixth hour. 
There cometh a woman out of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith 
to her “ Give me to drink ”. (For his disciples were gone away, 
into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman therefore saith 
to him “ How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, who 
am a woman and a Samaritan? ” (For Jews have no dealings with 
Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her “ If thou hadst known 
the gift of God, and who it is that said to thee c Give me to drink 
it would be thou that wouldst be asking him, and he would have 
given thee living water ”. The woman saith to him “ Sir, thou 
hast nothing to draw with and the well is deep; from whence then 
hast thou the living water? Am I to believe that thou art greater 
than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and himself drank of 
it and his sons and his cattle?” Jesus answered and said to her 
“ Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but 
whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall not 
thirst unto eternity; but the water which I shall give him shall 

57 



58 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

become in him a spring of water springing into eternal Life ”, The 
woman saith unto him “ Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not 
neither come hither to draw ”. Jesus saith to her 44 Go, call thy 
husband and come hither The woman answered and said to 
him 44 1 have no husband ”. Jesus saith to her 44 Thou saidst well 
6 1 have no husband for five didst thou have as husbands and he 
whom now thou hast is not thy husband. This thou hast said 
truly.” The woman saith to him 44 Sir, I perceive that thou art 
a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say 
that in Jerusalem is the place where men must worship.” Jesus 
saith to her 44 Believe me, woman, that the hour cometh when 
neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the 
Father. Ye worship what ye know not; we worship what we know; 
for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour cometh and now is 
when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and 
truth; indeed the Father seeketh such for his -worshippers. God 
is Spirit, and they that worship him, in spirit and truth must worship.” 
The woman saith to him 44 1 know that Messiah cometh ” (which 
is called Christ): 44 when he is come, he will announce all things 
to us ”, Jesus saith to her 44 I am he, I that am speaking to thee ”, 

The course of the conversation is easily followed. 
The Lord is alone by the well and has no means of 
drawing water; so when the woman comes He asks 
her to draw and give Him to drink. She is surprised, 
for He is manifestly a Jew, and she is a Samaritan and 
a woman, both reasons why He should not address 
her. This gives Him the opportunity to go further; 
it is true that He is a Jew, but if she knew more, and 
perceived the opportunity offered to her by His 
presence, she would be asking Him for a greater boon 
— a truly living water. Of course she is puzzled; 
Jacob gave this well, and in the ordinary sense it 
contains living, that is, running, water; is He greater 
than Jacob, the father of all Israel? Yes; His gift at 
any rate is greater, for it is inexhaustible. Then, says 
the woman, give it me, and save me all this trouble. 
He does not refuse, but bids her call her husband to 
share the gift. She is becoming mystified and im- 
pressed; and, no doubt fearing exposure of her manner 
of life, denies that she has a husband. The Lord reads 
her thought and says that this denial — intended as 



CHAPTER IV 


59 

a lie in self-defence — is strictly true. She sees the 
sign of a prophet’s insight and at once asks the prophet 
to decide the vexed question which kept Jews and 
Samaritans apart — Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim? 
He, as usual when confronted with a question which 
arises from the superficiality and unspiritual quality of 
men’s thought, deals with the question by penetrating 
to the principle governing the sphere of life which it 
concerns. But this baffles her. The prophet’s answer 
does not satisfy. She must wait for the Messiah, who, 
no doubt, will clear up this and all other difficulties. 

I am he — I that am talking to thee. 

Having thus sketched the outline of the conversa- 
tion let us first go through it in more detail, and then 
consider its symbolic significance. The Lord is travel- 
ling on foot, and is weary from His journey. He sits 
down just as He is near the spring which Jacob has 
made available by sinking his well. Anyone who is 
tired from walking is likely also to be thirsty. It is to 
satisfy a perfectly genuine need that He says to the 
woman who comes down from Samaria Give me to j 
drink. None the less He is ignoring convention in 
making the request. It was a precept of the moralists 
of the time that “ a man should not salute a woman in 
a public place, not even his own wife ”. There was 
a great contempt for women. “ One of the thanks- 
givings in the daily service of the Synagogue is 
‘ Blessed art thou, O Lord . . . who hast not made 
me a woman Y’ 1 The answer made by the women 
from their gallery or other separate place was “ Blessed 
art thou, O Lord, who hast fashioned me according to 
thy will ”. If we now feel that the women had the j 
best of the exchange, that is a Christian and not an j 
ancient Jewish sentiment! The prejudice was very ( 
strong. But here is someone that ignores it, and 
ignores at the same time the equally strong and far 
more bitter prejudice of Jews against Samaritans. 

1 Westcott on 27. 




60 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

How is it that thou , being a Jew y askest drink of me y who 
am a woman and a Samaritan? (9). The answer begins 
that undercutting of the prejudices which is made 
complete in 21-24. The real marvel of this conversa- 
tion is not that a Jewish Rabbi is conversing with a 
Samaritan woman, but that this woman is face to face 
with the Saviour of the world (42); If thou hadst known 
the gift of God y and who it is that saith to thee “ Give me 
to drink ”, it would he thou that wouldst be asking him y 
and he would have, given thee living water (10). The 
last phrase does not of necessity mean any other water 
than such as was bubbling up in the spring at the 
base of the well. Yet (she thinks) He can hardly mean 
that; He seems to be pointing to some contrast; and 
anyhow He has no means of drawing water from the 
well. Thou hast nothing to draw with and the well is 
deep; from whence then hast thou the living water? (1 x). 
This spring was found by Jacob himself and given by 
him to his heirs and descendants, among whom (as the 
woman is, no doubt, glad of the chance to hint) 
Samaritans claim to rank no less than Jews. Art thou 
greater than our father Jacob ? (12). 

Already the conversation is turning, on the woman’s 
side also, to the Person of her interlocutor. The Lord 
had given an impulse towards this (10), but waits 
to let that take fuller effect. At present He fastens 
on the difference between Jacob’s gift and His own. 
The water in Jacob’s well quenches thirst for the 
time; this other living water quenches for ever the 
thirst which it assuages, and is indeed an inward 
spring, bubbling up into eternal life. Everyone that 
drinketh of this water shall thirst again y but whosoever 
drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall not thirst 
unto eternity ; but the water that I shall give him shall 
become in him a spring of water , springing into eternal 
Life (13, 14). 

( 'Water . In ii, x-n the water that is drawn at the 
command of Christ is wine for him who drinks it. 



6 1 


CHAPTER IV 

Here is promise of an inward spring which is an elixir 
of life eternal for him who receives it. In vii, 37-39 
the water that Christ gives is a source of refreshment 
not only to him who receives it but to others, as the 
living water flows forth from him. For this living 
water is the Holy Spirit, who could only be given in 
fulness to men when Jesus was glorified. That was 
accomplished on the Cross, and from His crucified 
Body flowed Blood and Water — xix, 34.) 

The woman does not understand; how could she? 
The Lord is leading her on towards understanding by 
words to which she will attach some real meaning, but 
not the full meaning which is in His mind and which 
she may grasp later. At least she has reached the 
stage of asking for the offered boon, though mainly 
because it seems as if it will save trouble : Give me this 
water that I thirst not neither come hither to draw (15). 

But the gift of God (10) cannot be received to be 
merely enjoyed. It must always be shared. Its very 
nature involves that ; for it is Himself, His own Spirit, 
the Spirit of Love. To receive that does hot mean to 
enjoy the knowledge that God loves us. It means that 
His active love is present in our hearts; and if so, it 
must go out to others. If we are not sharing with 
others the gift of God, that is proof that we have not 
received it. So the Lord tells this woman to call the 
person with whom she would naturally share first. 
Call thy husband and come hither (16). Unknown to 
herself, her conscience has been quickened. She 
shrinks from the exposure that may be before her: 1 
have no husband. And that is true. By the standard 
of God’s law, before Moses allowed exemptions for 
the hardness of men’s hearts, the intercourse of mar- 
riage effects an irrefragable union; “ they are no more 
twain, but one flesh ” {St. Mark x, 5, 8). (How far 
St. Paul regarded this principle as carrying us is clear 
from I Corinthians vi, 16. Any pre-marital intercourse 
therefore makes true marriage with any other than the 



62 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

partner of that intercourse permanently impossible. 
This I have no doubt is the explanation of the “ ex- 
ceptive clause ” in St. Matthew. At that point the 
Church, like Moses, has made allowance for the hard- 
ness of men’s hearts. How far it should go is open to 
question. But there is no doubt about the principle 
upheld in the whole New Testament.) 

This woman was probably within the requirements 
of the Mosaic law. But she has taken a liberal advan- 
tage of its exemptions from the truly divine law! By 
that only true standard the lie with which she hoped to 
save herself from exposure is itself true: Thou saidst 
well , I have no husband; for five didst thou have as 
husbands , and he whom now thou hast is not thy husband; 
this thou hast said truly (18) — more truly than she 
knew! But now the woman is sure that her inter- 
locutor is a Prophet; He interprets the divine law in 
independence not only of the scribes, but of Moses 
himself; and He knows the secrets of her heart. So 
she forgets her request for the living water, and eagerly 
asks for a ruling from this seer of divine truth on the 
great question which separates Samaritans from Jews, 
and is at once the ground and the form of their mutual 
excommunication. I ■perceive that thou art a prophet. 
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that 
in Jerusalem is the place where men must worship (19,20). 
But now the divine truth which inspired and justified 
that neglect of convention, which the whole conversa- 
tion illustrates, can be . stated. As so often with our 
Lord’s replies to enquirers, it does not answer the 
question, but leads to ground where the question does 
not arise at all. It is often so. There is no Christian 
solution of the problems presented by human self-will ; 
but there is a Christian cure for the self-will, and if 
that is effective, the problem is (not solved but) 
abolished. So when a man wanted the Lord to divide 
an inheritance, that is to arbitrate between two self- 
centred claims, He refuses to take that position. He 



CHAPTER IV 


63 

will not settle the dispute; but He will tell them how 
to avoid having a dispute — “ Take heed and keep your- 
selves from all covetousness ” (St. Luke xii, 13-16). 
For, of course, if there had been no covetousness, there 
would have been no dispute to settle. 

So here, the dispute between Jews and Samaritans 
arose from an unworthy conception of God, and the 
fuller knowledge which the Lord brings will not solve 
the problem but abolish it: the hour cometh , when 
neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship 
the Father (21). Yet the Jew has a certain priority; 
for the revelation recorded in the Scriptures of the Old 
Testament is more directly his by inheritance. The 
Samaritans had had a chequered religious history. 
Some see in the “ five husbands ” a reference to the 
five gods whom the Samaritans had once served — cf. 
II Kings xvii, 2 9-3 1 ; later, when the priest sent by 
the King of Assyria arrived {ibid. 27, 28), there was a 
mixed cult — “ they feared the Lord and worshipped 
their own gods ” {ibid. 33). The Samaritan tradition 
was far from pure: Ye worship what ye know not — a 
deity adopted, so ty speak, because He was the deity 
of the place; we worship what we know; for salvation 
is from the Jews (22). 

That last phrase is of supreme importance. The 
difference between East and West, which we so easily 
regard as geographical and racial, is really, as Mr. 
Edwyn Bevan has pointed out, a difference between 
those who have and those who have not come under the 
influence of the Bible. The world around the Mediter- 
ranean Sea — the spring of our modern “ western ” 
culture — was in many ways very like the Eastern 
countries of to-day. There was a lofty philosophy for 
those to whom it appealed; but they were few. There 
was great moral degradation, which the prevalent 
religions were powerless to remedy; some of them 
even intensified the degradation. There was one 
exception. Among the Jews was a living faith in a 

F 



64 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

living God, to whom no honour could be paid without 
righteousness of life. The distinctive Jewish doctrine 
that God is a living God, a God of purpose and judge- 
ment, who is perfectly righteous, effected the union of 
religion and morality which was otherwise foreign to 
the prevalent cults. That is why the Old Testament 
revelation is the unique source of salvation. Salvation 
is from the Jews. It proceeds from them; but is not 
confined to them. For the God whom they know and 
worship is the universal Father. 

The hour cometh and now is (because with the coming 
of Christ the full truth is declared and all exclusions 
are ended) when the true worshippers shall worship the 
Father in spirit and truth ; indeed the Father seeketh such 
for his worshippers. God is Spirit , and they that worship him 
must worship in spirit and truth (23,24). It is impossible 
to exhaust the wealth of this great declaration. God is 
Spirit. That is the most fundamental proposition in 
theology. God is not the totality of things — the All; 
nor is He an immanent principle to which all things 
conform; He is Spirit — active energy, alive and pur- 
posive, but free from the temporal and spatial limita- 
tions which are characteristic of matter. Consequently 
there is no need to seek Him in a local habitation. 
The kind of persons whom He seeks for His worshippers 
are those who will worship in spirit and truth. Both of 
these words combine two meanings. In spirit means 
{a) with that highest element in our nature which is 
the meeting-point of the divine and the human, and 
should be the controlling factor in the whole economy 
of our being; (b) in contrast with any literalistic 
legalism, it means a worship of heart and will, not tied 
to strict obedience to a code, but expressing a self- 
dedication more pervasive than the requirement of 
any code. In truth means (a) in sincerity — without 
hypocrisy or self-deception, but also ( b ) according to 
the real nature of God, so as to be free from all worship 
of God under a false image, which is idolatry. “ We 



CHAPTER IV 


% 

are in him that is true, in his Son Jesus Christ This 
is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep 
yourselves from idols ” (/ John v, 21). 

But though what the Lord has said is so full of 
meaning, it has none for the woman. He may be a 
prophet; doubtless He is; but it is nothing new for the 
utterances of prophets to be obscure. Some day the 
Messiah will come and make all plain ; we must wait 
for that. I know that Messiah someth ; when he comes 
he will announce all things to us (25). To that simple, 
waiting spirit the Lord discloses Himself as hitherto 
to no other. I am he y I that am talking to thee (26). 

Stupendous affirmation! And with a strong sug- 
gestion, not for the woman, but for the reader, of 
something more stupendous still. The Greek idiom 
permits the omission of the pronoun “ he and it is 
omitted. So that the translation very literally is this — 
I that am talking to thee , I AM. 


What St. John records, apart from graphic details, 
is set before us in illustration of the way in which 
eternal life is actually offered in Jesus Christ, and there- 
fore how we, believing, may find it (30, 31). Once 
more, then, we go back to the beginning of the con- 
versation, and consider it as an example of the Lord’s 
pastoral dealing — of His dealing with my soul. Here 
are the key-sayings, followed by a paraphrase of these : 


1. Christ 
The woman 

2. Christ 
The zooman 

3. Christ 
The woman 

4. Christ 
The woman 

5. Christ 


Give me to drink 

How is it that thou askest of me? 

If thou hadst known the gift of God — 
Give me this water 
Call thy husband 

Thou art a prophet: solve our problems 
Worship in spirit and in truth 
We must wait for Messiah to come 
I am he. 


In such a way the Lord leads us on to the knowledge 
which we chiefly need: 



66 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

1. The Lord Do me a service 

The soul How is it that thou askest anything of me ? 

2. The Lord If thou hadst known what gift from God 

is offered thee 

The soul Give me this gift 

3. The Lord (a) With whom will you share it? 

(b) Lay bare your sin 

The soul Solve my perplexity 

4. The Lord Worship in spirit and truth 

The soul Ah ! no solution yet. We must wait 

5. The Lord I AM 

i. The way to call anyone into fellowship with us 
is, not to offer them service, which is liable to arouse 
the resistance of their pride, but to ask service from 
them. Of course the request must be prompted by a 
real need. The Lord was actually tired and thirsty 
when He said Give me to drink , and drew the woman 
into conversation by asking for her help. So social 
workers have found that they cannot bridge the gulf 
digged by education so long as they live in a style 
different from their neighbours and offer service. But 
all is changed when they adopt the manner of life 
familiar in the neighbourhood and share its needs. 
One has told of the difference for him when he left 
a well-appointed settlement in Bermondsey, where he 
needed nothing which his neighbours could supply, 
and went to live in a workman’s flat. The first even- 
ing he wanted a hammer to hang pictures, and went 
to borrow one from the people in the flat below. At 
once the relationship was different. There was some- 
thing that they could do for him. 

So the Almighty God seeks to win us to fellowship 
with Himself by putting some part of His purpose 
into our hands. “ The kingdom of heaven is as when 
a man, going into another country, called his own 
servants, and delivered unto them his goods ” {St. 
Matthew xxv, 14). That is the way in which God is 
King; and He takes that way because it is the way of 
fellowship. He who might be all-sufficient to Him- 



CHAPTER IV 


67 

self, entrusts His purpose to us. He makes Himself 
dependent upon us, as the Lord was dependent on the 
woman for the quenching of His thirst. He asks for 
our service. 

But how can that be? How is it that thou askest of 
me? Thou canst do all things. I have nothing. I am 
not fit to offer the meanest service. Surely God will 
first require, and help me to form, a character worthy 
to serve Him, and then appoint me my task. No; in 
point of fact it is only through service that such a 
character could be formed. Canon Peter Green has 
often pointed out that Christ did not first make His 
disciples saints and then give them work to do; He 
gave them work to do, and as they did it other people 
(though not themselves) perceived that they were 
becoming saints. The service that He asks of me is a 
real service, not fictitious; yet it is for my sake, and 
out of love for me, that He so orders His world as to 
need my service. That is how it is that He asketh of 
me. Also because He loves us, He rejoices that we 
should be “ fellow-workers ” with Him (I Corinthians 
iii, 9). If He were not Love He would have no need 
of us; it is His love that needs us. And behind His 
request is the love that prompts it — the love which 
He is ready to give me, the gift of God. 

2. As I begin to understand this, I begin also to 
hear His voice saying that if I really appreciated what 
is offered in His request for service, the whole situation 
would be reversed, and the request would come from 
me — the utterance of my soul’s thirst for its only 
satisfaction. And thereupon the plea rises in me — 
Give me this gift of God. 

3. But then, like a lightning flash, comes the 
demand which means at once “ With whom will you 
share it? ” and “ Lay bare your sin ”. For I cannot 
receive the gift however truly it is offered if either I 
mean selfishly to keep it, or there is some sin to which, 
conscious of it and concealing it, I cling. But from 



68 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

that demand I shrink, and, recognising the voice of 
divine authority, quiet my conscience by recourse to 
intellectual riddles, which I ask that authority to 
resolve. How often does the weak will obscure 
the clear call of conscience by resort to intellectual 
“ difficulties ” ! Some of these are real enough ; but 
some are sheer self-protection against the exacting 
claim of the holy love of God. 

4. Both for perplexity and for dulled conscience 
the remedy is the same; sincere and spiritual worship. 
For worship is the submission of all our nature to God. 
It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; 
the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purify- 
ing of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the 
heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose 
— and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most 
selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and 
therefore the chief remedy for that self-centredness 
which is our original sin and the source of all actual 
sin. Yes — worship in spirit and truth is the way to 
the solution of perplexity and to the liberation from sin. 

But to our superficial souls the divine answer seems 
to evade the problem precisely because it penetrates 
, to the heart of it. We must wait till there is offered 
to us in fellowship and communion the eternal God 
Himself. 

5. “ I that am talking to thee, I AM.” That is 

the assurance that we need: that He with whom we 
know that we have dealings is none other than the 
eternal God. If my soul can hear that word, then it 
can rest. But it is not enough that I should believe 
on grounds satisfactory to myself. I need the divine 
assurance of the divine love. “ Say unto my soul ‘ I 
am thy salvation ’ ” ( Psalm xxxv, 3); “ He that 

believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in Him ” 
(/ John v, 10). I that am speaking to thee , I AM. 



CHAPTER IV 


69 

27. And upon this came his disciples and marvelled that he was 
talking with a woman; yet no one said “ What seekest thou? ” or 
“ "Why talkest thou with her? ” 

We are still in the early days of the ministry and 
the Lord’s freedom from convention causes astonish- 
ment; a little later the disciples would have become 
accustomed to the new position accorded to women 
by their Master. But already there is that about Him 
which forbids the enquiries that curiosity so strongly 
prompts. 

* 

28-30. So the woman left her water-pot and went away into the city 
and saith to the men “ Come, see a man who told me all my doings. 
Can this be the Christ? ” They went out of the city and made their 
way towards him. 

She left her water-pot, so she meant to come back. 
It is one of the graphic touches which strongly suggest 
the eye-witness. The Evangelist records what the 
disciples saw. The water-pot is a little bit of sheer 
realism. As Scott Holland used to say “ You cannot 
allegorise that water-pot. It is a perfectly empty 
water-pot. No one ever found the old Law at the 
bottom of it.” She leaves it there and goes to her city 
to tell people (men here represents the general or 
neutral Greek word) of her strange experience. And 
they start back with her. Meanwhile the Lord draws 
a moral from what has happened. 

* 

31-38. In the meantime the disciples asked him, saying “Rabbi, 
eat But he said to them “ I have meat to eat that ye know not 
The disciples, therefore, said one to another “ Hath any man 
brought him aught to eat? 55 Jesus saith unto them “ My meat is 
to accomplish the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 
Say not ye 4 There are yet four months and harvest cometh 5 ? 
Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes and look on the Helds, 
that they are white to harvest. Already the reaper is receiving 
wages and gathering fruit unto Life eternal, that both sower and 



70 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

reaper may rejoice together. Per herein is the saying true c One is 
the sower and another the reaper 5 . I sent yon to reap that whereon 
ye have not laboured; other men laboured and ye are entered into 
their labour. 55 

The disciples bring back the food which they had 
gone to buy (8). They had left the Lord weary beside 
the spring, and now they urge Him to refresh Him- 
self with what they have purchased. But His mood is 
changed. He has a refreshment of which they do not 
know. They wonder among themselves, but do not 
venture to ask Him whether someone else has supplied 
His needs. But His refreshment comes from another 
source. In the soul of the woman and in the influence 
that she is gone to exert, a work of God is manifest; 
the doing of that is His refreshment. And how 
rapid is the response ! — as though sowing and reaping 
were telescoped together. The disciples have only to 
garner the fruit of the labour of others. In the case 
of the spiritual harvest the four months have dropped 
away. 

* 

39-42. And from that city many of the Samaritans believed on him 
because of the word of the woman as she testified “ He told me all 
my doings When therefore the Samaritans were come to him 
they asked him to abide with them; and he abode there two days. 
And far more believed because of his word and said to the woman 
“ No longer because of thy speech do we believe, for we have 
heard ourselves, and know that this is truly the Saviour of the 
world 55 . 

This illustrates the wholesome development of 
faith from a state of dependence on authority to an- 
assurance arising out of experience. We notice that 
these “ outsiders ”, these “ dissenters ”, ask the Lord 
to remain with them, whereas the Jews of Jerusalem, 
the heirs of the great tradition, had pushed Him further 
and further away. They do not, here at any rate, use 
the traditional expectation of the Messiah to interpret 
Him with whom they have now had intercourse; they 



CHAPTER IV 


7 * 

simply are convinced, that in Him the world has 
received its Deliverer. With all of us faith in God 
begins because of our faith in those who tell us of 
Him. This may be fully real, and have strength to 
“ save ” the soul. But it is less than the faith which 
rests on a personal experience, which has already in 
some measure supplied to faith its vindication and veri- 
fication. We must constantly ask ourselves whether, 
and how far, our faith is still based on what we have 
been told by others, and how far we have heard our- 
selves and know. 

* 

43-54. And after the two days he went forth thence into Galilee. 
For Jesus himself testified that a prophet in his own country has 
no honour. So when he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed 
him, having seen all that he did in Jerusalem; for they also went to 
the feast. He came therefore again to Cana of Galilee where 
he made the water wine. And there was an officer of the King, 
whose son was sick at Capernaum. This man, having heard that 
Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, w T ent to him, and asked 
that he would come down and heal his son; for he was at the point 
of death. Jesus therefore said 44 Unless ye see signs and portents, 
will you in no wise believe? ” The officer saith unto him 44 Sir, 
come down ere my child die Jesus saith to him 44 Go thy way; 
thy son liveth The man believed the word which Jesus spake 
to him and went his way. And already, as he was going down, his 
servants met him saying that his boy liveth. He enquired of them 
therefore the hour when he began to amend. So they said to him 
a Yesterday, in the seventh hour, the fever left him The father 
therefore knew that it was in that hour in which Jesus said to him 
44 Thy son liveth ”. And he believed himself and his whole house. 
This again as a second sign did Jesus after coming from Judaea 
into Galilee. 

It is suggested that the Lord deliberately sought a 
place where He would have no honour ; if so, it marks 
the beginning, though as yet no more than that, of 
His withdrawal from public ministry and concentra- 
tion upon His chosen followers, which reaches its 
climax in the Syro-Phoenician journey (St. Marti vii, 
24). The Galileans welcomed Him as a friend who had 



72 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

won some distinction for His home in the capital — • 
a very different thing from the honour accorded to a 
■prophet. 

So we come to the Second Sign — the healing of 
the nobleman’s son — or, rather, the son of the royal 
officer. It bears resemblance to the healing of the 
centurion’s servant, and some have thought it a doublet 
of that. But the differences are too great, considering 
how circumstantial each story is. The Lord’s answer 
is surprising. The fact that the nobleman comes at 
all is a sign of faith; but the answer to his request is 
Unless ye see signs and portents, will ye in no wise believe? 
or ye will in no wise believe . Perhaps the answer lies 
in the plural verb. The nobleman has faith, but not 
these Galileans among whom Jesus lived as a boy. 
The Samaritans had believed without quite such start- 
ling evidence, though the woman’s testimony was 
startling enough. The Galileans were interested by 
the signs which He wrought at Jerusalem, but these 
came short of the signs and portents here referred to. 
He will for once, and because love towards the “ noble- 
man ” in his distress so urgently prompts it, supply 
the portent of healing from a distance without any 
personal intercourse with the sufferer. The “ noble- 
man ” is puzzled by this apparently detached observa- 
tion about readiness to believe; he knows his need, 
and believes in the power of the Lord to meet it. Sir, 
come down ere my child die. The answer is the healing 
word: Go thy way , thy son liveth. The result is a fuller 
faith, at least in the nobleman and his household. - 

Faith is the one requisite — first, enough faith to 
believe and hope that Christ can satisfy our needs, 
leading to ever stronger and deeper faith as each 
measure of trust is vindicated in experience. For 
though faith is always met with blessing from God, 
that blessing does not always take the desired or 
expected form, as in this case it did. 



CHAPTER VI 


[For reasons mentioned in the Introduction (p. xxxiii 
supra) and fully set out by Archbishop Bernard in his 
Commentary, to which reference is there made, I am 
persuaded that Chapters V and VI have become mis- 
placed, and that Chapter VI should be read between 
Chapters IV and V.] 

# 

i -14. After this Jesus went away over the sea of Galilee (the sea of 
Tiberias), and a great crowd was following him because they were 
watching the signs which he did on the sick. And Jesus went up 
into the mountain, and was sitting there with his disciples. Now the 
Passover was nigh, the feast of the Jews. Jesus therefore, having 
lifted up his eyes and seen that a great crowd is coming to him, 
saith unto Philip “ Whence are we to buy bread that these may eat? ” 
And this he said testing him, for he himself knew what he was 
about to do. Philip answered him M Six pounds worth of bread is 
not sufficient for them, that each may take a little Then saith to 
him one of his disciples, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, 
“ There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two pickled 
fishes; but what are these among so many? ” Jesus said “ Make 
the men sit down Now there was much grass in the place. So 
the men sat down in number about five thousand. Jesus therefore 
took the loaves and having given thanks he gave to them that were 
set down; likewise also of the fishes as much as they would. And 
when they were filled, he saith to his disciples “ Gather up the broken 
pieces that remain over, that nothing be wasted So they gathered; 
and they filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley 
loaves which remained over unto them that had eaten. The people 
therefore, when they had seen the sign which he did said that This 
is truly the prophet who cometh into the world. 

The Lord has been at Cana. The healing of the 
son of a royal officer might easily excite Herod’s 
interest, so it is expedient to leave Herod’s territory. 
He crosses to the eastern side of the Lake near its 
northern end, as we learn from St. Luke’s reference 
here to Bethsaida {St. Luke ix, ro). Probably the 

73 



74 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

actual place was a little plain about a mile south of 
Bethsaida and about nine miles from Capernaum, from 
which many would have come. For those who had 
followed all the way from Cana the distance was, of 
course, far greater. The Lord goes up into the mountain 
and sits there with His disciples. They have come for 
peace (St. Mark vi, 31) in preparation for the Passover 
which was nigh. But the crowd has marked the point 
for which their boat was making, and has come round 
the Lake on foot — for many of them a long journey. 
Jesus sees them coming and asks Philip how this 
number can be fed. Philip estimates what is required 
and offers this with the evident implication that 
nothing is possible. Andrew calls attention to the only 
resources which are in fact available, with the same 
implication. Then the Lord takes control. Receiving 
the ludicrously meagre resources, he gives thanks — 
(the word is Eucharistesas) — and distributes ; what 
was ludicrously inadequate is now ample and an 
abundance is left over. The people in their excitement 
regard the Lord as The Coming One — “ he that 
should come ”. 

This is the only incident in the Ministry of the 
Lord prior to the triumphal entry which is recorded 
by all the four evangelists. This does not give it any 
additional credibility on grounds of evidence, for the 
First and Third Gospels here rest on the Second. But 
it strongly suggests that a special importance was 
attached to it. I have told the story above so as to 
bring out part of its symbolism. Then, as now, the 
Lord and His disciples were confronting a mass of 
human need. He asks Philip, who belonged to the 
neighbouring town of Bethsaida, what can be done 
about it. Philip, like most of us, is daunted by the 
sheer magnitude of the task and gives it up. Andrew 
at least points to what is available — a lad’s luncheon 
for his day out, five barley loaves (barley bread was the 
food of the poor) and a couple of pickled fish as a 



CHAPTER VI 


75 

relish — but he knows that this is a futile suggestion. 
Then the Lord gives thanks and distributes, and the 
need is met. It is unnecessary to draw the moral. 
The need of the world is not too great for our resources 
if it is the Lord who directs the use of those resources. 

What actually happened? It is clear that every 
Evangelist supposed our Lord to have wrought a 
creative act; and for myself I have no doubt that this 
is what occurred. This, however, is credible only if St. 
John is right in his doctrine of our Lord’s Person. 
If the Lord was indeed God incarnate, the story 
presents no insuperable difficulties. But of course 
such a creative act is quite incredible if He is other 
or less than God incarnate. 

St. John’s narrative has some peculiarities which 
can hardly be accidental. In view of the connexion 
between this “ sign ” and the discourse which follows, 
it is significant that the features associating the miracle 
with the Last Supper are minimised. Thus it is not 
said that Jesus broke the loaves; nor that He “ looked 
up to heaven ” — which is mentioned by all the 
Synoptists and is a very ancient feature of the Eucha- 
ristic rite. The fact that according to the best text 
there is no mention of the twelve as intermediaries in 
the distribution also tends to separate this from the 
familiar administrations of Holy Communion; if it 
were thought that the Lord personally distributed to 
all the five thousand, that would be a point of resem- 
blance to the Last Supper; but evidently this is not 
intended. And though the word for the thanksgiving 
includes the very name of the Eucharist, it is elsewhere 
used by St. John with no sacramental suggestion. I 
cannot doubt that the Evangelist is deliberately 
eliminating a sacramental reference. The reason for 
this we shall see later. 

Meanwhile the greatness of this sign leads the 
crowd to the thought that Jesus is the Coming Prophet 
of Deuteronomy xviii, 15: “The Lord thy God will 



7 6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, 
of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall 
hearken ”. But the expectation is become a little con- 
fused, and they are also- wanting to treat him as the 
Coming One, the Messianic King. 

* 

1 5. When Jesus therefore perceived that they were about to come and 
take him by force that they might make him king, he withdrew 
again into the mountain himself alone. 

Here we see “ natural religion ” — the religion to 
which we are impelled by our natural impulses, and 
which tries to make use of God for our purposes. 
That popular sin ultimately found its focus and final 
expression in Judas, who will very soon now stand 
apart as a “ cell ” of disloyalty within the Twelve 
(70, 71). But the same sin was in Simon Peter, who 
could not endure that the Lord should suffer (St. 
Mark viii, 32, 33). How close together in common 
sinfulness are the disciple whose faith is the founda- 
tion of the Church and the disciple whose treachery 
has made his name the worst insult that one man can 
fling at another! — “ that no flesh should glory before 
God ” (7 Corinthians , i, 29). Of course the selfishness 
of this arrogance masks itself as a generous desire to 
give honour to our leader. But we make ourselves the 
judges of what is to His honour. If we are not careful, 
much of our prayer is like that. We batter at the 
doors of heaven, demanding audience for our proposals 
whereby God may save His world, or promote His 
purpose. But faith consists in leaving Him to take 
His own way. 

This excitement of the crowd is no material for the 
Lord to .use. All the Evangelists tell us that after 
this miracle the Lord withdrew in solitude, but only 
St. John gives the special reason for this. He cannot 
use the crowd in the state which is their response to 



CHAPTER VI 77 

His own action; and He needs the peace and refresh- 
ment of solitary communion with the Father. 

This third sign is interpreted in the discourse 
which follows : Christ is the Bread of Life, the susten- 
ance of the soul, Himself the source of the strength 
whereby we may serve God. But before the inter- 
pretation of that sign is given, another is wrought, 
appropriate to the excitement to which this one had led. 


* 

16-21. And when even was come, his disciples went down to the sea, 
and entering into a ship set out across the sea to Capernaum. And 
darkness had already come on, and Jesus was not yet come to them. 
And the sea — a great wind blowing — arose. So when they had 
rowed about twenty or thirty furlongs, they behold Jesus walking 
on the sea and drawing nigh to the ship; and they were afraid. 
But he saith to them “ It is I; be not afraid So they were willing 
to receive him into the ship; and immediately the ship was at the 
land whither they went. 

St. John tells the familiar story in such a way as 
to minimise, if not eliminate, the miraculous element 
in the sign, and to let the significance stand out. For 
his version does not necessarily imply a miracle at all; 
the phrase for “ on the sea ” is also used for “ on the 
sea shore ” (xxi, 1). So his narrative can be read as 
meaning that the Lord was on the shore to welcome 
the disciples as, after much toil, they approached it. 
Certainly the story is vivid, and bears all the marks of 
an eye-witness who, as a fisherman, was familiar with 
that Lake, its distances and its squalls. But for St. 
John the meaning is to be found in the peace of 
attainment which immediately supervenes when, tossed 
with trouble, we willingly receive Jesus to be our 
companion. Christ is the Guide of Life, whom we 
may follow in the strength that He supplies into the 
way of peace. 



78 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

The Bread of Life 

As there are seven “ signs ” in the Gospel as first 
planned, that is without the Epilogue, so there are 
seven parables of the Lord’s Person introduced by the 
words “ I am ”. These are: 

1. I am the Bread of Life (vi, 35) 

2. I am the Light of the World (viii, 12) 

3. I am the Door of the Sheep (x, 7) 

4. I am the Good Shepherd (x, 1 1) 

5. I am the Resurrection and the Life (xi, 25) 

6. I am the True Vine (xv, 1) 

7. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (xiv, 6) 

There does not seem to be any marked progression 
of thought running right through the series. But the 
first four parables represent a comparatively external 
relationship and the last three an inward vitalisation. 
It is true that bread only gives nourishment so far as 
it is taken into the body; but it is first of all outside; 
and this first parable thus gives the clue to the series, 
which represents the appropriation of what is offered 
by God objectively and externally so that it becomes 
subjective and inward power; that is the sacramental 
principle. (1) Christ nourishes us and gives us 
strength; (2) He gives us Light to shew the way we 
should follow in that strength; (3) He is Himself the 
entrance into the fellowship of Life; (4) He is the 
guardian of that fellowship, who by His sacrifice wins 
for it new members; (5) He is Himself the life of 
that fellowship; which lives by Him alone; (6) He 
is even the fellowship itself, for its members are in- 
corporated into Him, and it is His Life that vitalises 
them; (7) comprehensively, He is Himself the way to 
be followed in action, the truth to be believed, the life 
to be lived. 

What is set out in the remaining verses of Chapter 
VI is not so much one discourse as the summary of a 



CHAPTER VI 


79 

series of conversations on different occasions and 
perhaps on different days, though shortly after the 
miracle of feeding. It is expressly stated (59) that the 
closing section represents teaching given in the Syna- 
gogue (though it must surely incorporate similar 
teaching given later to the disciples in the Upper 
Room), and it is hardly conceivable that the opening 
conversation took place there (25 ff.). In fact we have 
here a double conflation. First, a series of conversa- 
tions and discourses has been brought together in 
one continuous summary; secondly, as St. Matthew 
collects ethical teaching from many occasions to con- 
stitute its version of the Sermon on the Mount, and 
gathers together parables spoken on many occasions in 
its thirteenth chapter, so St. John introduces into the 
record of what followed the miracle of feeding some 
parts of the Lord’s later teaching which carries further 
the principle of what He taught at that time. This 
may make the hard saying (vi, 60) seem even harder 
than it was, especially if words spoken at the Last 
Supper have been transposed to this place. But the 
course of the narrative requires a saying hard enough 
to account for the defection of many disciples. 

This discourse includes words nearer than any other 
that St. John gives us to those spoken at the Institu- 
tion of the Eucharist : the Bread which I will give is 
my flesh for the Life of the world (51). The record of 
the Words of Institution as they appear in the older 
texts, before the beginning of that assimilation which 
resulted in the text translated in the Authorised Version, 
is as follows : 

“ Take; this is my Body ” (St* Mark)* 

“ Take, eat; this is my Body ” (St. Matthew ). 

“ This is my Body 99 (St. Luke , Western text). 

“ This is my Body which is given for you; this 
do in remembrance of me 99 (St. Luke y longer 
text). 

G 



80 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

“ This is my Body which is for you; this do in 
remembrance of me ” (St. Paul). 

“ The Bread which I will give is my Flesh for 
the Life of the world ” (St. John). 

The word translated “ for ” is the same in each of the 
last three, where alone it occurs — vrrep. It is to be 
noticed that the thought of a memorial is expressed 
only in St. Paul’s record, and in that version of the 
Lucan text which has been assimilated to the Pauline. 
That thought could not in fact be absent from the mind 
of any one who took part in the Holy Communion. 
It obviously is a memorial, “ a perpetual memory ”, of 
the Lord and of what He did at the Last Supper, and 
so of His Death. But for St. John as for St. Mark all 
emphasis is laid upon the thought of “ feeding upon 
Christ ” — so receiving and assimilating Him that He 
becomes our very life. 

But it is important that St. John separates this 
teaching from the moment of the Institution, which 
indeed he does not anywhere specifically mention, and 
attaches it to the miracles of feeding, in the story of 
which he omits those details which make any special 
connexion with the Holy Communion. So far as any 
discourse in this Gospel is directly associated with the 
Holy Communion or its Institution, it is not that on 
the Bread of Life, but that on the True Vine, which 
was spoken by the Lord either in the Upper Room or 
very soon after He and His disciples had left it. And 
in view of St.‘ John’s treatment of the symbolism of 
the two “ elements ” it is characteristic of his whole 
attitude to the Eucharist that he should associate the 
Eucharist more closely with the Wine than with the 
Bread. 

He associates the Bread chiefly with our own recep- 
tion of Christ; the discourse in Chapter VI begins and 
ends with that, and has no other theme. But he 
associates the Wine — “ the Fruit of the Vine ” (St. 



CHAPTER VI 


8 1 


Mark xiv, 25) — the Life of Christ coursing in our 
veins — with that mutual love which is to be the mark 
of our discipleship (xiii, 34, 35; xv, 12). In the writ- 
ings of Ignatius, the most Johannine of the Fathers, 
this association becomes identification: e.g. Ad Tral- 
lianos , viii; “ Renew yourselves in faith, which is the 
flesh of the Lord, and in love, which is the blood of 
Jesus Christ”; on which Bishop Lightfoot com- 
ments, “ Faith is the flesh, the substance of Christian 
life ; , love is the blood, the energy coursing through its 
veins and arteries ” (cited by Bernard, p. clxxv). 

St. John, it would seem, is concerned with two 
dangers. One is Docetism, which holds that the 
humanity of the Lord is apparent only — a means of 
His manifestation to us, but not a substantive part of 
His Person; as against this he insists that the Word 
was made or became flesh (cf. I John iv, 2). Hence he 
gives emphasis to teaching which requires actual 
participation in the Sacrament, and prefers the realistic 
term Flesh to the more frequent Body. Yet he sets 
this teaching in a context which guards against the 
other danger — that of attributing to physical recep- 
tion of the Sacrament any magical efficacy. He will 
not have the Sacrament isolated either from God’s 
general activity in the world or from the fulness of 
Christian life. The “ Real Presence ” in the Eucharist 
is a fact, but it is not unique. The Word of God is 
everywhere present and active. The Bread and Wine 
have a symbolic meaning before they are consecrated — 
they are the gift of God rendered serviceable by the 
labour of man: and that is what we “ offer ” at the 
“ offertory ”. It is this which the Lord takes to make 
the special vehicle of His universal Presence and 
Activity. No words can exaggerate the reverence due 
to that divinely appointed means of grace; but it is 
very easy to confine our reverence when we ought to 
extend it, and to concentrate it only on this focal 
manifestation of the divine Presence, instead of seeking 



82 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

that Presence and Activity also in the Church, which 
itself is called the Body of Christ, and in all the world 
which came to be through Him (i, 3). 

So soon as the Sacrament is isolated it becomes in 
greater or less degree magical. It is for avoidance of 
that danger that St. John (a) keeps the teaching about 
the Bread and our reception of it detached from the 
rite itself, (b) expounds the rite rather in connexion 
with the Wine interpreted as brotherly love, and (r) 
closes the teaching of this sixth chapter with the 
insistence that Flesh and Blood mean Spirit and Life 
( vi > 63). 

The discourse, or summary of conversations, falls 
into three main sections: 26-40, the search for Life 
and the Bread of Life; 41-51, the relation of the Son 
who is that Bread to men; 52-58, the reception of 
that Bread which is the Son by men. But first come a 
few verses of narrative introduction. 

* 

22-25. The day following, the multitude which stood on the other 
side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there save one, and 
that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his 
disciples went away alone. But there came boats from Tiberias 
nigh unto the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had 
given thanks. When therefore the multitude saw that Jesus was 
not there nor his disciples, they themselves entered into boats and 
came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. And when they found him 
beyond the sea they said to him “ Rabbi, when earnest thou hither? ” 

We notice the vivid and crowded recollection of the 
eye-witness. Such writing is the expression of personal 
memory. The question of the people when they find, 
the Lord is one of friendly but futile curiosity. It 
could not matter when He came. But they have been 
looking for Him, and wonder if He had already started 
across the Lake when their search began. The Lord 
passes at once beyond their curiosity to the motive of 
their search. 



CHAPTER VI 


83 

26-40. Jesus answered them and said “ Amen, Amen, I say to you: 
ye seek me, not because ye saw signs, but because ye ate of the loaves 
and were filled. Work not for the food which perisheth, but for 
the food which abides unto eternal Life, -which the Son of Man 
shall give you; for him the Father sealed, God himself.” They 
said therefore unto him u What are we to do that we may work 
the works of God? ” Jesus answered and said to them “ This is 
the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent ”. 
They said therefore to him “ What sign then shewest thou , that we 
may see and believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers ate 
the manna in the wilderness, as it is written, Bread out of heaven 
he gave them to eat.” Jesus therefore said to them u Moses gave 
you not the bread out of heaven, but my Father giveth you the 
bread out of heaven, the true bread. For the bread of God is that 
which cometh down out of heaven and giveth Life to the world.” 
They said therefore unto him “ Lord, evermore give us this bread 
Jesus said to them “ I am the bread of Life. He that cometh to me 
shall never hunger and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 
But I said to you that ye have even seen me and do not believe. 
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that 
cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Because I am come down 
from heaven, not that I may do the will that is mine, but the will 
of him that sent me. And this is the will of him that sent me that 
of all which he hath given me I should not lose aught, but should 
raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father that 
every one who beholdeth the Son and believeth on him may have 
eternal Life; and I — I will raise him up at the last day.” 

The crowd is excited, and as is usual with excited 
people, has not considered the grounds of its own 
excitement. There were two possible grounds: one 
was that here was a wonder-worker who could supply 
their bodily needs; the other was that in doing so 
He had given proof of the presence with them of 
One in whom the Kingdom of God — love endowed 
with power, power subordinate to love — is already 
actualised. The Lord knows that their excitement 
about Him really rests on the former ground. Ye 
seek me, not because ye saw signs — not because you 
knew that what happened was significant of something 
beyond itself — but because ye ate of the loanees and were 
filled. Whenever we try to use our religion as a 
solution of our temporal problems, caring more for 
that than for God and His glory, we fall under the 



84 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

same condemnation. I have heard speakers commend 
the cause of Christian Missions on the ground that to 
spread the Gospel, at any rate under Anglican forms, 
is a way of consolidating the British Empire; but, 
short of that sort of vulgarity, we are all under the 
temptation to call in Christian faith as a means of de- 
livering us from the agony of war, caring more for our 
own escape from that torture than for God’s glory. It is 
very natural; it is a state of mind with which we must 
all sympathise; but it is at best sub-Christian. If what 
is eternal is valued chiefly as a means to any temporal 
result, the true order is inverted, and it is likely that 
the eternal and the temporal goods will be missed alike. 

This lesson is now pressed home under the special 
instance of food or bread. Work not for the food which 
perisheth but for the food which abides unto eternal life. 
There is an interplay of words here which cannot be 
reproduced. The exact translation is “ Work not the 
food ” (i.e. effect or earn, by working), and is paralleled 
in the phrase “ work the works of God ”. But though 
a certain pointedness is lost in English, it is no more 
than this. The goal of all our labour is to be an eternal, 
not a temporal and transitory, satisfaction. And even 
then what we receive is not a reward but a gift — 
which the Son of Man shall give you ; for him hath the 
Father sealed , even God himself. It is from Him in 
whom our human nature is perfectly fulfilled that we 
receive the satisfaction of our souls; for this function 
His perfect humanity qualifies Him, as also for Judge- 
ment, of which this is one possible form — cf. v, 27. 
And what He offers is His free gift. Our work for it 
establishes no claim. The creature can have no claim 
against his Creator; still less can the sinner have any 
claim against his Redeemer. Eternal life is, to man, 
a free gift from God Himself ; but the Father has sealed 
the Son as the donor of it, as He has committed all 
judgement to the Son, because he is Son of Man (v, 22, 27). 

But if we are to work for the food which abideth unto 



CHAPTER VI 


85 

eternal Life, how are we to set about it? In one way 
or another it must mean the doing of what God 
appoints as our task ; He is the donor of life, and the 
work that makes us fit for it must consist in the works 
of God. But what are these? and how do we set about 
them? What are we to do that we may work the works 
of God? It is a most natural question. Everyone on 
the verge of discipleship wants to ask it. We are told 
that both Fascism and Communism have more appeal 
to the young people of to-day than the Christian 
Church, because each is ready to tell them exactly 
what to do to-morrow and next week ; and the Church 
has no such practical guidance to offer. How can it 
have? This is the work of God that ye believe on him 
whom he hath sent. There we have as sharp a state- 
ment as can be found of the doctrine of Faith and 
Works. We all want to do things, partly out of a just 
eagerness that evils should be remedied, partly out of 
a desire to justify ourselves. But “ by the works of the 
law ” — the God-given law, so that these are the works 
of God — “ shall no flesh be justified in his sight ” 

( Romans iii, 20). It is impossible that we should justify 
ourselves. And it would be very bad for us if we 
could; for it would tend to make us forgetful of God. 
The first necessity is to believe on Him. This is differ- 
ent from believing things about Him, though that may 
be one preliminary. It means trusting Him as a man 
trusts his friend — rather as a child trusts his father. 
But we are not left to form what conception we can of 
the God whom we are to trust. He has made Himself 
apparent to us in the Son whom he hath sent. 

This is a stupendous claim. For the Jews knew 
and we know to whom He refers, “ The work of 
God ” — the one thing He requires as the condition 
for His gift of eternal life — “is that you put your 
trust in me”. We must have some evidence first 
before we admit that claim, so paradoxical in itself 
and so decisive for our whole conduct of life. What 



86 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

sign shewest thou that we may see and believe thee? 
They do not grasp the idea of believing on Him, 
putting all their trust in Him ; they get no further than 
the thought of believing Him, that is — believing what 
He says. And this goes with another failure. They 
cannot see that He is Himself the evidence for His 
claim. Men constantly want external support — such 
as that He fulfils prophecies, or that He was miracu- 
lously born, statements which are both quite true, but 
are perceptible in the one case and acceptable in the 
other only because of faith independently generated. 
This whole Gospel is an insistence that true faith is 
based on the intrinsic quality of the revelation — as 
it is said elsewhere “ He that believeth on the Son of 
God hath the evidence in him ” ( I John v, io). But 
it is only those whose hearts are ready who can receive, 
or even perceive, that evidence. So we want signs. 
What dost thou work more than others that claims so far 
greater can be advanced? There was the miracle of 
feeding, but Moses did something like it. Our fathers 
ate the manna in the wilderness , as it is written “ He gave 
them bread out of heaven to eat ”. 

This plea contains two errors; first, Moses was 
not the donor of that bread, nor was it in truth the 
heavenly bread. It was God who gave it; and that 
same God continually gives the genuine bread out of 
heaven. Moses gave you not the bread out of heaven ; 
but my Father giveth you the bread out of heaven , the 
true bread. “ My Father ” — here the Lord uses this 
phrase for the first time in its absolute form. In ii, 1 6 
He had called the Temple “ my Father’s house ” — 
cf. St. Luke ii, 49. But though the suggestion there 
was present, it was not emphatic. My Father here is 
an expression which prepares the way for I am the 
bread of Life (35). But that claim is not made yet. 
The bread of God is that which cometh down out of 
heaven and giveth life to the world. It is something 
more than manna. That kept men alive — for a time 



CHAPTER VI 


87 

(cf. 49); it did not give Life . This true bread, then, is 
what we need: Lord, evermore give us this bread . That 
is the universal cry of the human heart. The Jews do 
not protest as yet. Rather, they are impressed. They 
use a title of respect, and ask to be given this bread 
at all times. We can all get as far as that. The trouble 
begins when we are told what this bread is. 

I am the Bread of Life . Now first the personal 
claim is made; and it is the first of the seven parables 
of the Lord’s Person. The phrase Bread of Life has a 
double meaning — the living bread (51) and the bread 
which gives Life. It is this Bread — which He Him- 
self is — which gives to the soul a satisfaction that 
endures eternally. He that cometh to me shall never 
hunger and he that believeth on me shall never thirst . 
The negatives are the strongest in the Greek language; 
they rule out not only a fact but the bare possibility of 
the fact. Hunger and thirst become simply impossible 
to him that cometh . “ Come unto me all ye that labour 
and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest ” ( St . 
Matthew xi, 28). The passage before us is itself a 
reason for linking that invitation with the Bread of 
Life, as is done by the first of the Comfortable Words 
in the Anglican Eucharist. 

He that cometh\ “ Come unto me”. We cannot 
know whether the promise is fulfilled unless we fulfil 
the condition. But what is this coming} It is the 
opening of heart and mind to the Good News which 
He brings, and which concerns Himself. All that is 
needed is the will to do this; our coming to Him is a 
movement of desire and will. And if we have no such 
desire and will, what then? Why then we are in our 
natural state, and have only to wait for Him; for no 
man can come to me except the Father draw him (44). This 
must not be made an excuse for spiritual sloth in 
those who have any sense whatever of the claim of 
Christ upon their allegiance. Yet dangerous as is the 
lure of sloth to our half-formed faith, still more danger- 



88 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

ous is the effort to develop that faith by any exercise 
of self-will. The hopeful attitude is not expressed by 
the words “ I will believe ”, but by the words “ Help 
thou mine unbelief The one fatal thing is to struggle 
and strive. If we do not trust, it is because we cannot 
trust; any effort to have faith will convert faith itself 
into a “ work of the law ”, and destroy its real char- 
acter. For my salvation must be altogether His gift, 
and in no sense at all my achievement. And there are 
some who are not — at present, anyhow — able to 
receive it. I said unto you that ye have even seen me and 
do not believe ; the miracle of feeding was to them a 
convenience rather than a revelation. Yet this is not a 
reason for despair, but only for that self-distrust which 
is the complement of hope in God. 

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me. It is as 
He wills. My coming or not coming is in His hands ; 
and where could I choose by preference that it should 
be? To realise that my not “ coming ” is itself due to 
the will of the Father, who has not yet drawn me, and 
to accept this, is one beginning of trust in Him, one 
sign that in fact He is really drawing me to come. 
And then there is safety. Him that cometh to me I will 
in no wise cast out\ again that strong negative: “ There 
is no possibility that I shall cast him out ”. How 
should He cast away those whom the Father draws? 
For I am come down from heaven — those solemn words 
are enshrined in the Church’s confession of faith: 
“ Who for us men and for our salvation came down 
from heaven ”. Here they are a kind of refrain; the 
phrase about “ coming down from heaven ” recurs 
in 33, 38, 41, 42, 51 and 58. It is the key-phrase of 
the passage. The food that abideth unto eternal Life , 
which is the Lord Jesus Himself, comes down from 
heaven. It is a gift from beyond the natural order, or 
the normal historical sequence. The Incarnation is 
not only an episode related to past and future as are 
other episodes; it is the appearance, in the midst of 



CHAPTER VI 


89 

Time, of that Eternal Being in whom Time itself is 
grounded. I am come down from heaven — not to do 
the will that is mine but the will of him that sent me . 
Perfect obedience is the characteristic of the human 
life of the Son of God. 44 Lo, I am come to do thy 
will, O God — by which will we have been sanctified ” 
(Hebrews x, 9, quoting Psalm xl, 7, 8: F.B. 9, 10). 
And this is that will, that of all whom He gives to His 
Son, none should be lost, but that I should raise it up 
again at the last day . Here is another refrain; see 39, 
40, 44, 54. This final achievement balances the descent 
from heaven which makes it possible; the two refrains 
express the initiation and the consummation of the 
divine enterprise of redemption. 

The thought of our 44 coming V to the Son is now 
deepened. And this is the will of him that sent me , 
that every one who beholdeth the Son and believeth on 
him may have eternal Life . For 41 we know that if he 
be manifested we shall be like him for we shall see 
him as he is ” (I John iii, 2) — on which Thomas 
Arnold commented 44 the contemplation of Christ shall 
transform us into his likeness ”, To be so trans- 
formed is to enter into eternal life. All that we have 
to do is to look, to contemplate, to open our minds 
towards Him that He may fill them. And then the 
result is His achievement, His gift; I will raise him 
up at the last day . 

& 

The first stage, so to speak, of the great discourse 
is ended. It leads to 44 murmuring ”, The Lord’s 
hearers are more bewildered than antagonised; they 
talk among themselves — (43) — until the Lord chal- 
lenges them by the use of even stranger words. 

41-51. The Jews therefore began to murmur concerning him, because 
he said “ I am the bread which came down out of heaven And 
they said “ Is not this Jesus the Son of Joseph, whose father and 
mother we know ? How doth he now say e Out of heaven am I 
come down? * ” Jesus answered and said to them “ Murmur not 



9 o READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

among yourselves. No man can come to me except the -Father which 
sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is 
written in the prophets t And they shall be all taught of God’, 
Every one that hcareth from the Father and learneth, cometh unto 
me. Not that any man hath seen the Father save he which is from 
God; he hath seen the Father. Amen, Amen, I say to you, he that 
believeth on me hath eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your 
fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and died; this is the bread 
which cometh down out of heaven, that a man may eat of it and not 
die. I am the bread, the living bread, which came down out of 
heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever; yea, and 
the bread which I will give is my flesh for the Life of the world.” 

The Jews very naturally murmured . No less 
naturally they telescoped various expressions and in so 
doing missed an important distinction. The phrases 
which they telescope are these: the bread of God is that 
which cometh down out of heaven (33); I am the bread 
of Life (35); I am come down from heaven (38). The 
bread of God comes down continually — in creation, in 
the word of prophecy, in all that shews the activity of 
God ; but He who is the Bread of Life, in whom this 
life-giving and nourishing activity is focussed, came 
once, at the Incarnation. The language is parallel to 
that in the Prologue concerning the Light which 
lighteth every man , yet at the Incarnation was coming 
into the world . The balance is of great importance. 
For only if Christ is the consummation of the divine 
activity in all creation, and therefore no alien from the 
world, no “ absolutely-other ”, can He be the self- 
manifestation of the Creator. The distinction which 
the murmuring Jews confuse is clearly drawn again in 
the words of the Lord which follow (50, 51). 

The claim to a heavenly origin puzzles those who 
supposed that they knew all about the Lord’s parent- 
age, Is not this Jesus? — Yes. The son of Joseph? 
— -No. Whose father and mother we know? — Yes; 
you know of them, but not their true relationship to 
Him; for Mary would not have told the story of the 
Annunciation to any outside her nearest friends. But 
as the Jews suppose that they know all about this, they 



CHAPTER VI 


9i 

are bound to ask in perplexity, How doth He now say 
“ Out of heaven am I come down ” ? The reply does not 
ease the difficulty but rather increases it. There are 
many superficial problems which can be resolved only 
by making them profound problems. But the Lord’s 
first words convey excuse, if not comfort. No man can 
come to me except the Father which sent me draw him. 
The initiative is always with God. Even the sternest 
implications of this truth will be faced and accepted 
(xii, 39, 40). But when the Father initiates the work 
of grace, the Son completes it : I will raise him up at the 
last day. The point may be illustrated from the 
prophetic promise which is in fact fulfilled in the 
coming of Christ: They shall be all taught of God. But 
teaching involves a double process ; the lesson must be 
spoken so as to be heard, and when heard it must 
be heeded. The “ drawing ” of the Father is not a 
mechanical impulsion in which our wills play no part; 
the “ drawing ” is effected by the influence of the 
word spoken on our hearts and minds. We cannot 
hear unless the Father speaks; all initiative lies with 
Him; but when we hear it lies with us (sustained by 
His grace) to learn or not to learn. Every one that 
heareth from the Father — and learneth — cometh unto 
me. This suggests an error that must be at once 
repelled, the alluring peril of mysticism, according to 
which a man may have direct experience of un- 
mediated communion with the infinite and eternal 
God. That is not so; and any experience taken to be 
this is wrongly interpreted. Only the Son has that 
direct communion with the Father. Not that any man 
hath seen the Father , save he which is from God; he 
hath seen the Father (cf. i, 1 8). 

It is easy to make confusion here. Nothing is more 
precious in the spiritual life than that communion with 
God which is enjoyed when the soul reposes upon God 
in utter self-abandonment, and God exercises His 
moulding power upon the soul thus resting, plastic, 



92 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

in His hands. That moulding influence comes 
rather through our sub-conscious than through our 
conscious nature. The whole experience often seems 
to be a direct experience of unmediated communion 
with God. But in fact it never is unmediated. It is 
mediated by all our thought of God, as this has come 
to us through our home-life, through natural beauty, 
through conscience (itself a focus of our moral tradi- 
tion), through acts of worship, through Jesus the Word 
of God. The experience of the mystics, Pagan and 
Moslem, Catholic and Protestant, is infinitely precious ; 
our own most mystical moments have something of the 
same high value, and we do well to cultivate them. 
But the strictly mystical interpretation of them, as 
unmediated communion with God, is illusory and 
renders them perilous. 

Because man is made in the image of God, the 
attempt to find God through penetrating to the inmost 
recesses of the self leads in men of all times and races 
to a similar experience. God truly is the spring of life 
in our souls ; so to seek that spring is to seek Him ; and 
to find it would be to find Him. But this can never 
quite happen. The image of God in man is defaced 
by sin, that is by self-will. The mind which seeks to 
reach that image is distorted by sin, and moulded both 
for good and for evil by tradition. The via negativa 
of the mystics cannot be perfectly followed. To rely 
on a supposedly direct communion with God in 
detachment from all external aids is to expose the soul 
to suggestions arising from its distortion as well as to 
those arising from the God whom it would apprehend. 
Mediation there must be; imagery there must be. If 
we do not deliberately avail ourselves of the true 
Mediator, the “ express image ” ( Hebrews i, 3), we 
shall be at the mercy of some unworthy medium and 
of a distorted image. If we are learning to see God in 
Christ, let us by all means steep our minds in that 
revelation, and repose in God so made known to us 



CHAPTER VI 


93 

with complete immediacy of surrender and trust. But 
let us be sure that the knowledge of God on which we 
rely is that which reaches us through Jesus, the Word 
of God made flesh. 

The mediator of the Father’s gift of life is the Son, 
and to believe on Him, to live by trust in Him, is to 
possess eternal life. He that believeth on me hath eternal 
Life. The life of faith does not earn eternal Life; it is 
eternal Life. And Christ is its vehicle. I am the bread 
of Life. Tour fathers ate the manna in the wilderness 
and died. This is the bread which cometh down out of 
heaven. If any man eat of this bread he shall live for 
ever. The Jews had appealed to the gift of manna as 
the equivalent of what the Lord did in the miracle of 
feeding; and so far as that is understood as a mere 
event and not as a “ sign ”, they were right. But as 
a sign it pointed to something more — to a spiritual 
nourishment abiding unto eternal Life. Those who ate 
the manna satisfied present hunger; but that was all. 
It was a physical refreshment, and could not ward off 
physical death. But there is a spiritual nourishment 
continually offered by God, by taking which eternal 
Life is secured. It is supremely and uniquely offered 
in Christ, who is Himself the bread , the living bread , 
and is now in unique manner come down out of heaven. 
To eat of this bread , in other words — to receive the 
living Lord into the soul so that He becomes its Life — 
is to live for ever. 

But now the Lord will carry us. still further. We 
are to receive His Life to be our Life. And this is 
offered through the Incarnation. The Word became 
flesh \ the term flesh was chosen there to stand for 
fulness of humanity down to its lowest element. It 
is by His humanity that He offers us life : if we receive 
that humanity and it becomes our own, it is found to 
bring with it eternal Life. The bread which I will give 
is my flesh for the Life of the world. 



94 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Of course the Jews knew that this was in some way 
figurative; they would not suppose that He was com- 
manding a form of cannibalism. But of what is this 
strange expression a figure? A division arises among 
them, accompanied by strong feeling. 

52-58. The Jews therefore began to strive one with another saying 
“ How can this man give us his flesh to eat? ” Then said Jesus unto 
them “ Amen, Amen, I say to you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son 
of Man and drink his blood, ye have not Life in yourselves. He 
that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal Life; and 
I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is true food and my 
blood is true drink. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, 
abideth in me and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live 
because of the Father, so he that eateth me he also shall live because 
of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as 
the fathers ate and died — he that eateth this bread shall live for 
ever.” 

The figure is pressed home and developed. Not 
only must we eat and so receive the “ flesh ”, the full 
humanity, of Him in whom humanity is perfected — 
the Son of Man; but we must drink his blood. The 
phrase would have been quite as startling, even hor- 
rifying, to the Jews as to ourselves. The blood of 
animals might not be received as food: “ Be sure thou 
shalt not eat the blood; for the blood is the life; and 
thou shalt not eat the life with the flesh ” ( Deuteronomy 
xii, 23; cf. Leviticus xvii, 14, 15, and many similar 
passages). But the reason why the Jews were for- 
bidden to eat the blood of their sacrifices is itself the 
reason why we must drink the blood of the Son of 
Man. The blood is the life; especially is it the life 
released by death that it may be offered to God. 

It is clear that the “ Flesh ” and the “ Blood ” are 
thought of as separated and separately received. But 
flesh from which the blood is separated is dead. We 
receive the Broken Body; we make our own the 
“ dying of Jesus ” (II Corinthians iv, 10). Blood, on 
the other hand, when poured out, is the life released 
by death and given to God. As we make our own the 



CHAPTER VI 


95 

“ dying of Jesus ”, so we make our own the risen life 
of Jesus, so that in Him we may be “ dead unto sin 
but alive unto God ” ( Romans vi, 1 1). 

To “ eat the flesh ” and to “ drink the blood ” of 
the Son of Man are not the same. The former is to 
receive the power of self-giving and self-sacrifice to the 
uttermost. The latter is to receive, in and through that 
self-giving and self-sacrifice, the life that is triumphant 
over death and united to God. Both “ elements ” are 
needed for the full act of “ communion ” — which 
suggests that to receive the Holy Communion in one 
kind only is grievously detrimental to the full reality 
of the sacrament. The life that gives itself even to 
death ; the life that rises from death into union with 
God : these are the divine gifts without which ye have 
not Life in yourselves. But he who receives and makes 
his own those gifts hath eternal Life. For those gifts 
are true food and drink of men ; he who receives them 
and makes them his own abideth in me and I in him. 

Those words express in completeness the substance 
and the goal of the Christian life. They recur in the 
discourse on the True Vine (xv, 4) — the other and 
still more distinctively Eucharistic discourse. It is not 
the momentary eating but the permanent abiding that 
is of primary importance; the sacramental communion 
is an end in itself so far as it is communion, but a means 
to an end so far as it is sacramental. The sacrament 
is normally necessary; but it is the communion alone 
that is vital. That is why St. John keeps all this teach- 
ing, which so obviously bears upon the Eucharist, 
carefully separated from the Last Supper and the 
Eucharist itself. That we should “ take ” and “ eat ” 
is an indispensable aid which the sincere Christian 
cannot omit; but the one thing that matters is that 
we should “ feed upon him in our hearts ”. 

Our dependence for life upon the Son corresponds 
to the dependence of the Son upon the Father. He is 
truly the Mediator (cf. xv, 9; xvii, 18; xx, 21). Only 

H 



96 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

the Father is source of His own life; even the divine 
Son, though co-eternal, is yet “ begotten ”, and lives 
because of the Father , of whom He is “ begotten before 
all worlds And we too, creatures who owe all to 
our Creator, have no life in ourselves ; but if we make 
our own the living, dying and rising of the Son, we 
shall live because of Him. 

So the whole can be summarised: This (the Son in 
the Flesh and Blood which He -gives as food and drink) 
is the bread that we spoke of which came down from 
heaven in all its quickening power at the Incarnation. 
It is like the manna in that God gave it, but it is a better 
gift. The fathers ate and died ; he that eateth this bread 
shall live for ever . 

* 

This difficult language was used publicly and many 
who had become disciples were bewildered. He offers 
a clue to the understanding of what He has said; but 
He lets the hard saying sift those who can discern 
something of its spiritual truth from those who cannot. 
After all, the prelude to the discourse was that false 
excitement which had led the multitude to try to take 
him by force to make him a king (15), and it was im- 
peratively necessary to bring that to an end before His 
real message could be received. The discourse by 
which He sifts and tests them alienates some; so He 
lets them go. 

59-65. These things he said in synagogue, teaching in Capernaum. 
Many therefore of his disciples, having heard, said “ Hard is this 
saying; who can hear it? ” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his 
disciples were murmuring concerning this, said to them, “ Doth 
this offend you? — If then ye behold the Son of Man going up 
where he was before? The Spirit is the Life-giver; the flesh doth 
not profit at all; the words which I have spoken to you are spirit 
and are Life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For 
Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe 
and who it was who would betray him. And he said “ For this 
reason have I said to you that no one can come to me except it have 
been given to him of the Father 



CHAPTER VI 


97 

The teaching was given in synagogue (as we say “ in 
Church ”). This may have been on a sabbath sub- 
sequent to the miracle of feeding, or at one of the 
mid-week gatherings for instruction. The latter is 
more likely, as on any of these occasions the congrega- 
tion would consist of those who desired to hear the 
particular Rabbi who would be giving instruction; 
when that was Jesus they would mostly be “ disciples ” 
or those who were considering whether or not to 
become “ disciples And it is many of his disciples 
who are said to have been disturbed. The point that 
specially disturbs them would seem to be, not only the 
claim that to feed on Him is to have eternal life, but 
equally the claim that Pie is come down out of heaven ; 
for what is offered in response is the prospect of 
beholding Him going up into heaven . 

It is part of the Lord’s method to confront those 
who are shaken by some marvel with a marvel greater 
yet; cf. i, 50, 51. This is appropriate to His theme. 
For the one important question is whether or not in 
Jesus Christ the Word became flesh. If that occurred, 
nothing else is marvellous; and stupefaction at lesser 
marvels may hinder the soul from facing that question. 
Do we in Him behold glory as of an only begotten from a 
Father ? If so, there is the all-comprehensive marvel, 
and nothing else, in comparison, is marvellous at all. 

As for the demand that men should feed on His 
flesh and drink His blood, of course this is figurative. 
There is no magical sacrament to be appointed any 
more than there is a reversion to primitive savagery. 
“The Spirit is the Life-giver” as we confess in the 
Nicene Creed ; the flesh — even the flesh of the Son of 
Man, literally understood — doth not profit at all; the 
words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are Life . 

The reference is not to this discourse as a whole; 
still less is it to the Lord’s teaching as a whole. 1 The 
words that I have spoken to you are the words Flesh and 

1 Cf. Gore, The Body of Christ, pp. zi, 22, 290, 291. 



98 READINGS IN ST. JOHN'S GOSPEL 

Blood \ for these we are, so to speak, to read Spirit and 
Life. This, again, does not mean that Flesh = Spirit 
and Blood - Life; it means that Flesh-and-BIood = 
Spirit-and-Life. 

But, if so, why not say Spirit and Life to start with 
and so avoid very great perplexity? A number of 
reasons can be given, and all, no doubt, had some 
part in fixing the choice of words which presented 
to would-be disciples a hard saying and alienated 
many. 

(x) To talk about receiving a Spirit or even Life 
is ineffective as a challenge. It easily coheres with 
a vague religiosity which has no definite and critical 
moments, no fixed religious practice, no cutting edge. 
We all know the people who seek to absorb the Spirit 
of the Creator by contemplation of the beauties of 
creation — an admirable exercise in itself — instead of 
anything that could by any stretch of language be 
called eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the 
Son of Man. It is vital for our spiritual well-being 
that we be brought to the point of specific worship, 
wherein we seek to receive Christ into our souls. 

(2) But we must not only receive Him in some 
general way, or by recollection of such scenes from His 
life as we prefer to contemplate. We must receive 
Him in the fulness of His self-sacrifice, that we may 
be united with Him in the self-emptying of His 
obedience unto death , even the death of the Cross ( Philip - 
■pians ii, 8). The Gospel finds its focus, not in the 
happy scenes of Galilee, but in the Cross and Resur- 
rection. It is the Body broken and the Blood out- 
poured that we must receive as our own life. 

(3) Therefore our worship finds its focus in our 
repetition of the action of the Lord and His disciples 
at the Last Supper. But then there is a danger lest 
we think that the outward acts have efficacy by them- 
selves. No doubt it is true that the Bread and Wine 
are after Consecration the Flesh and Blood of the Son 



CHAPTER VI 


99 

of Man. 1 But there is danger that we may turn that 
objective truth into a subjective delusion by supposing 
that to receive by the mouth the consecrated species is 
to receive eternal life. Therefore we must be reminded 
that the flesh doth not profit at all, if it be only flesh, 
and even though it be the flesh of the Son of Man. 
Hence the appropriateness of the reference to the 
Ascension. For the Flesh and Blood of the Ascended 
Son of Man are plainly not mere matter ; if they were, 
the resultant astronomical problems would be over- 
whelming — for where in the universe are they? But 
the “ right hand of the Father ” where the Ascended 
Son is seated is not a far-off place; it is here; wher- 
ever a man be, for him it is here. (See xx, 17 and 
comment there.) The Flesh and Blood of the Ascended 
Son of Man are Spirit and Life. 

So the purpose of this strange language is at least 
threefold: (1) to give point and effectiveness to a 
purely “ spiritual ” dependence on Christ; (2) to 
guard against materialism or magic in the use of the 
Eucharist, which is itself the chief means of effecting 
(x); (3) to secure that our sense of dependence on 
Christ is inseparably associated with His redeeming 
sacrifice. And if any still wonder that the Lord should 
so bewilder His disciples, let them reflect that the 
Eucharist, understood in the light of this discourse 
upon the Bread of Life, has in fact through all the 
centuries achieved this threefold purpose. Perhaps it 
was worth while that a score or so of people should be 
momentarily puzzled or even alienated to secure that 
end for all generations of Christian worshippers. 2 

1 Or if we are so materialistic as to hold that an object is its physical 
constituents rather than its spiritual meaning, let us say that they signify 
that Flesh and Blood. This is very bad philosophy, but the religious value 
is the same. 

2 It is not intended to suggest that these considerations were present in 
this form to the human consciousness of the Lord. These comments are 
my reflections on the Evangelist’s interpretative version of the Lord’s actual 
words. But that He envisaged and prepared for a long history of His 
Church, I have no doubt whatever. 



ioo READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

But there were some who could not be described 
as “ would-be disciples There are some of you who 
believe not . A sifting is beginning. Some are waverers 
and will return; some are spiritual aliens — one in 
particular; for the Lord had already felt the hardening 
hostility of Judas. From the beginning . Did He then 
choose Judas so as to equip the Twelve with a traitor? 
That is incompatible with His whole method. No 
doubt He knew that the nature of Judas supplied very 
intractable material; but He chose him “ that he 
might be with Him ”, and at the last made a final 
appeal to his loyalty and shame. But all through He 
had known the difficulty. If His victory and kingdom 
were to be all-embracing they must include such as 
Judas; the world must be welcomed into the Church 
if the Church is to convert and direct the world. But 
the issue is in the Father’s hands : For this reason have 
I said to you that no one can come to me except it have 
been given to him of the Father . 

66-71. Upon this many of the disciples went back and walked no 
more with him. Jesus therefore said to the Twelve “ Do ye also 
want to go? ” Simon Peter answered him “ Lord, to whom shall 
we go? Words of Life eternal hast thou. And we at least have 
believed and recognised that thou art the Holy One of God.” 
Jesus answered them “ Did not I choose you the Twelve? and of 
you one is a devil Now he was speaking of Judas the son of Simon 
Iscariot; for it was lie that was about to betray him, being one of 
the Twelve. 

So the division is complete. Many even of the 
disciples went back ; the phrase is due to the spiritual 
reality which their departure indicated. They not 
only went away, retaining what they had learnt in 
their discipleship ; they went back , positively losing 
ground. For when we depart from Christ, even for a 
time, we do not retain the level of spiritual life to which 
He had raised us; we begin at once to slip down. 



CHAPTER VI 


301 


And if after even “ tasting the good word of God and 
the powers of the age to come ” men then “ fall 
away ”, our plight is so grievous that one says “it is 
impossible to renew them again unto repentance ” 
{Hebrews vi, 5, 6). They went back and walked no more 
with him ; and He let them go. As He will not coerce 
us into His companionship, so He will not hold us 
there against our will. Our coming to Him and our 
abiding with Him must be our own free acts. 

Even the Twelve it seems are shaken. Do ye also 
want to go? The words must have been spoken with a 
wistful smile. And one day they will go. “ They all 
left him and fled ” (St. Mark xiv, 50). But that time 
is not yet. For the present Simon Peter rallies them 
by his own loyalty and confidence. “ Lord , to whom 
shall we go? Words of Life eternal hast thou." He at 
least has learnt enough to know that the hunger of his 
soul could be satisfied here and nowhere else. This 
chosen group has reached the stage of understanding 
their Lord and His relation to the Father. We (at 
least) have believed and recognised that thou art the Holy 
One of God. As having words of eternal Life the Lord 
is recognised as Prophet; as Holy One of God He is 
recognised as Priest. Perhaps here as elsewhere St. 
John reads back into the earlier time a knowledge that 
was actually reached later. But the title is not neces- 
sarily Messianic, for it is used of Aaron in Psalm cvi, 
16. The note of Kingship is still' lacking (though 
Nathanael is recorded as striking it at once — i, 49). 
This title — the Holy One of God — is that by which 
the demons greeted the Lord. It points to the spiritual 
character rather than the official status of the Messiah. 
That will be affirmed at Caesarea Philippi (St. Mark 
viii, 29; St. Matthew xvi, 16). 

(It is not suggested that the Evangelist is conscious 
of these distinctions. For him, Jesus is Messiah from 
the first, and his object is to persuade his readers of 
this fact. He is not concerned with the progress of 



102 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

the disciples in appreciation of it. This makes it all 
the more noticeable that, according to the best text, 
the full affirmation is not made here.) 

With Simon Peter’s eager affirmation all are in 
evident agreement save one: and the detachment of 
that one stands out against the background of the 
others’ faith. Probably Judas had shared the excite- 
ment that followed the miracle of feeding. A great 
opportunity was offered and his Master threw it away. 
Not only did He miss the psychological moment, but 
He deliberately dissipated the psychological fervour 
by talking more and more difficult language about 
Himself as bread, and about feeding on His flesh. 
Judas was not among them that went back , and 
separated himself. He did worse; he stayed, as an 
enemy within the chosen group of friends. Did not 1 
choose — Was it not I that chose — you the Twelve ? 
and of you one is a devil. A devil? Yes; for his will is 
opposed to the purpose of Christ who came not to do 
the will that is mine but the will of him that sent me (38). 
So he is opposing the will of God. 

(Oh, be careful, Peter. Soon you will make a greater 
confession still; and just afterwards it is you that will 
be called Satan. How near the saint is to the sinner!) 

So the story has proceeded . to the first great division 
— the division between “ the disciples ” and “ the 
Jews This division is present even in the . inner- 
most circle of disciples. Now we are to trace the 
development of controversy between the Lord and His 
opponents — a dark record, lit here and there by 
gracious utterances — until a final rejection is pro- 
nounced. That will be followed by the . infinitely 
sacred intercourse of the Lord with His chosen friends, 
preparing them for the great crisis and what would 
follow from it. 



ACT II 


THE LORD IN CONTROVERSY 

1. Chapters V and VII, 15-24: 

Controversy about the Sabbath 

2. Chapters VII and VIII: 

The Feast of Tabernacles — a national festival: “ Before 
Abraham was, I am ” 

3. Chapters IX and X: 

The Feast of Dedication — a “ Church ” festival. “ I 
and the Father are one ” 

4. Chapter XI: 

The Culminating Sign and its Challenge. “ The world 
is gone after Him ” 

5. Chapter XII: 

The Rejection of the World. “ Now is the crisis of this 
world ” 




THE LORD IN CONTROVERSY 

It is in these controversial chapters that we most of all 
need to remember the quality of this Gospel as the 
interpretative expression of a memory. The discourses 
of the Lord recorded in it follow in general the same 
line that He followed, and indeed the Rabbinical type 
of dialectic employed is regarded by eminent Jewish 
scholars as evidence for the substantial authenticity of 
the account. But the discourses as reported by St. 
John represent, as was said earlier, the meaning which 
they were found to have after a lifetime of meditation. 
Just as the knowledge that He was the Messiah 
throughout the Ministry has coloured the record of 
His dealing with disciples and others in the early 
days — (for the real fact, though not then ascertained, 
was the intercourse of the Messiah with His people) 
— so the relationships which matured into antagonism 
and rejection are viewed in retrospect as having this 
quality from the beginning. Perhaps the tempera- 
ment of the Son of Thunder, who wished to call down 
fire from heaven (St. Luke ix, 54), still survived to 
some extent in the aged apostle through whose con- 
sciousness these controversies have passed before 
reaching us. St. John records no saying of the Lord 
which shews sympathy for the difficulty which the 
Jews had in recognising Him, such as that which 
very characteristically St. Luke reports, “ No man 
having drunk old wine desireth new: for he saith, 
The old is good” (St. Luke v, 39). The relationship 
is, in memory, hardened into antagonism from the 
outset. And this, no doubt, was the spiritual fact. 
The outlook of “ the Jews ” was irreconcilable with 
that of Jesus; unless they should undergo personal 
conversion, they must end in direct opposition, for 

105 



io6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

their spirit was already in opposition. The Lord knew 
this from the beginning; they found it out by degrees. 

But though the relationship is depicted as one of 
sheer antagonism, with consequent hardness in the 
outlines of the opposing persons, there is not in the 
picture here given of the Lord any petulant irritation, 
such as some have thought that they found there. 
Our moral antagonism to the spirit of those who 
oppose us is so much mixed up with the emotional 
reaction of our offended self-concern that we are 
almost incapable of impersonal anger — the dreadful 
anger of perfect love at hate or selfishness. So we read 
the Lord’s stern words as though they were con- 
temptuous or ferocious. But there is no necessity to 
do that. The dramatic quality of the narrative requires 
that the ferocity should be all on one side, and con- 
fronted with unruffled calm on the other. That such 
calm is provoking to the irritated cannot be denied; 
but the fault is not with the calm. The hardest of all 
the Lord’s sayings, “Ye are of your father the devil ” 
(viii, 44), is to be read in a tone, not of hostility, but 
of sad recognition of a spiritual fact. 



CHAPTERS V and VII 
(H-24) 

1-9. After these things there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesns went 
up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep-gate a 
pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having live 
porches. In these were lying a multitude of sick folk, of blind, halt, 
withered. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity 
thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lying and knew that 
he had been now a long time in that case, he saith to him “ Is it thy 
will to become whole? ” The sick man answered him “ Sir, I have 
no man, when the water is troubled, to cast me into the pool; but 
while I am coming, another steppeth down before me Jesus 
saith to him “ Rise, take up thy pallet, and walk ”. And immediately 
the man was made whole, and took up his pallet and walked. Now 
on that day was a sabbath. 

A feast . The Passover, mentioned in vi, 3 as “ at 
hand If the traditional order of the chapters is 
retained it would be perhaps Purim or perhaps Pente- 
cost; either is difficult, but on the whole the former 
is more likely. But it makes no difference to the mean- 
ing of the story, which tells of the ^restoration of lost 
powers. Our fellowship with Christ not only hallows 
and intensifies all the powers that we have when we 
first meet with Him. It restores those which are 
atrophied by neglect or abuse. It is part of the deadly 
quality of sin that it hinders us from seeking its cure. 
It is our will to be cured; but we have lost through 
past sin the power to submit ourselves to the curative 
influence. Or else we, half-converted-we, are no 
longer “ dead in our sins but still sickly and weak 
through sin. We need someone to “ cast ” us into the 
cleansing stream; and often there is no one to do this 
for us. So we linger, discontented but acquiescent. 
How common that is ! 

Thirty-eight years. So long Israel wandered, unable 

107 



io8 READINGS IN ST, JOHN’S GOSPEL 

to reach the promised land. It is not only individuals 
but nations that lose strength, but may receive it again 
from Christ. Not only a nation, but a “ Church ”! 
When we meet with the Lord He uses no inter- 
mediate means, for He is Himself the source of strength 
to obey His commands. Rise, take up thy pallet , and 
walk . The impotence is gone. But the critics are on 
the watch. It is the sabbath day! That was always 
the chief occasion of friction. Observance of the 
sabbath was, for the devout Jew, the first requirement 
of the law. The Lord never denied its divine origin; 
but He affirmed that God ordained it for man’s sake, 
and the divine purpose conditions the divine enact- 
ment. See St. Mark ii, 23-28. In Galilee, also, the 
bitterness of opposition first appears in connexion with 
the sabbath. 

10-18. Now on that day was a sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto 
him that had been cured “ It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for 
thee to carry thy pallet But he answered them “ He that made 
me whole, even he said to me 4 Take up thy pallet and walk * ”, 
They asked Him u Who is the man that said to thee 1 Take up and 
walk’?” But he that had been healed did not know who it was; 
for Jesus withdrew, a multitude being in the place. After these 
things Jesus fi ndeth him in the temple and said to him “ Behold, thou 
art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee The 
man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus which had made 
him whole. And for this cause the Jews began to persecute Jesus, 
because he was doing these things on a sabbath. But Jesus answered 
4C My Father worketh even until now, and I work For this 
reason the more they sought to kill him, because he not only was 
breaking the sabbath, but also was calling God his own Father, 
making himself equal to God. 

The Jews were not wrong to challenge the man. 
He undoubtedly was breaking the letter of the law, 
and it was reasonable to question him. No doubt this 
cure was helped and established by the activity of 
carrying the pallet. The man needed to be convinced 
that he could do it. Therefore his doing it was part 



CHAPTERS V and VII 109 

of the work of mercy. But the Jews had not 
grasped the great principle “ I will have mercy and not 
sacrifice ’ (cf. St. Matthew xii, 7, where the Lord 
appeals to this text, also in connexion with the right 
keeping of the sabbath). 

He that had been healed did not know who it was. 
Of what countless multitudes this is true! Christianity 
founds hospitals, and atheists are cured in them, never 
knowing that they owe their cure to Christ. ■ Prisons 
are reformed under the influence which flows from the 
Gospel; and the prisoners never know — - sometimes 
the reformers themselves do not know — that Christ 
is the Author of the reform. 

Sin no more lest a worse thing befall thee. That is the 
danger of escape from the result of sin. If we are not 
vigilant, we relapse into a repetition of the sin; and 
next time the resulting impotence is greater and the 
process of cure is harder. It can happen as a result of 
the expulsion of an evil spirit that “ the last state is 
worse than the first ” (St. Matthew xii, 45; St. Luke 
xi, 26). But this is because we abuse the divine 
mercy; the quality of that mercy is undimmed. 

But the opposition now r reaches the point of definite 
persecution. Perhaps one offence could be overlooked, 
but the Lord was doing — had an evident habit of 
doing — works of mercy on the sabbath, which in- 
volved technical breaches of the sabbath-law. His 
defence is radical. 

My Father worketh even until now , and I work . 
What is the ultimate ground of the sabbath-law? It is, 
as the text of the Fourth Commandment makes clear, 
that God rested on the seventh day from the activity 
of Creation; His people are to keep it holy for fellow- 
ship with Him; therefore they must rest as He rests. 
But the Lord repudiates the thought that the divine 
rest from Creation took the form of idleness: “ My 
Father worketh even until now ”. As for Himself 
refreshment was found in doing the Father’s will 



i io READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

(iv, 34), so for the Father the sabbath rest is an activity 
of love, and our sabbath must be fellowship with that 
active rest. 

Thus, the Lord is not justifying a breach of the 
sabbath-law but offering a more profound interpreta- 
tion of it. He is saying in effect “ It is I who rightly 
keep the sabbath, rather than you ”, 

Dialectically this is the same argument in substance 
as that in St. Mark iii, 1-6. There His enemies are 
watching to see whether He would heal on the sabbath. 
He prepares to do so, and then asks “ Is it lawful on 
the sabbath day to do good, or to do harm ? to save a 
life, or to kill ? ” (The emphasis is, of course, on the 
second alternative in each question.) We want to 
answer “ There is no suggestion of killing; you are 
only asked to wait till sunset when the sabbath will be 
over ”. But there was a suggestion of killing — see 
verse 6; and of course they knew it, and He knew 
that they knew it. He was saying to them “ Which 
of us is keeping the sabbath holy? I am thinking of 
healing a man; you are thinking of killing one; which 
of us is keeping the sabbath holy? ” “ But they held 
their peace.” There was not much else for them to do. 

So here He asks “ Who is truly keeping the 
sabbath? ” But here, in accordance with His custom 
of going to the roots of the matter when dealing with 
the doctors in Jerusalem, He bases Himself on the 
true conception of God in His sabbath rest. “ My 
Father worketh even until now; and I work.” 

But this creates new difficulties. The opponents 
shift their line of attack. He is worse than a sabbath- 
breaker; He is guilty of the supreme blasphemy; He 
is claiming equality with God. That is a phrase intro- 
duced by His enemies. It cannot be either directly 
accepted or directly repudiated. The implied charge 
can only be met by a full statement of His relation to 
the Father. 



CHAPTERS V and Vli 


1 1 1 


19-27. Jesus therefore answered and said to them: “ Amen* Amen, 
I say to you, the Son cannot do anything of himself, except he 
seeth the Father doing something. For what things soever he doeth, 
these also the Son in like manner doeth. For the Father loveth the 
Son, and showeth him all things that he himself doeth; and greater 
works than these will he show him, that even you may marvel. For 
as the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son 
also quickeneth whom he will. For indeed the Father judgeth no 
man but hath given the judgement wholly to the Son; that all may 
honour the Son as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not 
the Son, honoureth not the Father who sent him. Amen, Amen, 
I say to you that he who heareth my word and believeth him that 
sent me hath Life eternal, and into judgement he cometh not but is 
passed over out of death into Life. Amen, Amen, I say to you that 
the hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice 
of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. For as the Father 
hath Life in himself, so gave he also to the Son to have Life in him- 
self. And he gave him authority to execute judgement, because he. 
is Son of Man.” 

The discourse begins in terms of the relationship 
of the Father and the Son; yet this is not primarily 
the relationship as it was before “ the Word became 
flesh ”, for the designation of the Father as “ He that 
sent him ” shews that it is the Son in His earthly 
mission who is in mind. But the relationship is 
described with the minimum of reference to that 
mission, so that it strongly points to an eternal relation- 
ship “ before all worlds This part of the discourse 
continues to the end of verse 23. Thereafter its con- 
cern is with the relation of the Son to men. Thus the 
total effect is to set forth the Son as the Mediator. 

The Son can do nothing of himself \ That is why the 
ancient Greek and Hebrew ideas of the Logos could 
be used to interpret His being and function. A 
“ word ” does not utter itself; it must be somebody’s 
word; and its importance depends upon the person 
whose word it is. The glory that we see in Christ is 
not His own, hut from a Father (i, 14). The Son is 
in all ways derivative and dependent — “ begotten 
But though in this way He is “ subordinate ”, the 
range of His derived activity is coextensive with the 

1 



1 1 2 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Father’s. He can do nothing of Himself, but He 
does all that the Father does. He is agent, not 
principal; but He is universal agent. All things came 
to he through him (i, 3). Therefore the revelation given 
in Him, though mediated, is complete and final. 

The root of this perfect coincidence of activity is 
perfect love. The Father loveth the Son — (that is the 
foundation truth of the whole universe) — and has no 
secrets from Him. The word for loveth is that which 
stands for the affection between friends: it is thus in 
some ways a lesser word than that which stands for the 
selfless love which is the very nature of God (7 John 
iv, 8), as appears in Chapter XXI. But here the context 
ensures the utmost exaltation, and the greater warmth 
of the more familiar word is peculiarly appropriate. 
There will be greater works than this healing of the 
impotent man, so that even these Jews who are so 
hardened in self-content that they see only the breach 
of a rule and not the activity of mercy and love, may 
be startled into some measure of perceptiveness. The 
raising of Lazarus did at least make them marvel and 
for some this led to more (xi, 45). 

And that sign would be an illustration- of the 
intimacy of the Father and the Son. For to raise the 
dead is clearly a property of God alone; yet the Son 
exercises that function also. As the Father raiseth the 
dead and quickeneth them, so also the Son quickeneth 
whom he will. And even this is not the end; for the 
supreme attribute of Judgement is given by the Father 
to the Son, so that in honour Father and Son may be 
coequal and that all may honour the Son as they honour 
the Father. 

We are accustomed to reflect with adoring gratitude 
that the Son thought not equality with God a thing to 
clutch at {Philip plans ii, 6); here we have the still deeper 
truth which is the ground of that, namely, that even 
in His humility the Son was not doing something of 
Himself but only what He sees the Father doing. For 



CHAPTERS V and VII 


i*3 

the Father so loves the Son that He retains no pre- 
rogative that is not shared, and wills that all should 
honour the Son as they honour the Father. At no point 
do we reach a limit of that self-giving which is the 
activity of the divine love. 

It follows, of course, and is stated in a single 
sentence that failure to honour the Son is failure to 
honour the Father (23). 

Now having established the status of the Son as 
derivative yet (by the Father’s will) coequal with that 
of the Father, we turn to His relation to men. 

He that heareth my word and believeth him that sent 
me hath Life eternal. If when we hear the Son we 
believe what the Father declares through Him, that is 
in itself an entry into fellowship with God, and there- 
fore involves eternal life. For this is — it does not 
earn, but it is — eternal life (xvii, 3). For such a one, 
judgement is over; the passage out of death into Fife is 
accomplished. The evidence to us that this passage is 
accomplished is that we “ love the brethren ” (I John 
iii, 14), for the test of our love to God — true love of 
the true God — is always found in the question 
whether we love men (cf. I John iv, 20). Love of 
God is the root, love of our neighbour the fruit, of the 
Tree of Life. Neither can exist without the other; 
but the one is cause and the other effect, and the order 
of the Two Great Commandments must not be inverted. 

Death is used throughout in both its senses — 
physical and spiritual. The Son raised some who were 
physically dead during His earthly mission. This was 
a sign of the quickening of multitudes spiritually dead. 
The hour is coming and now is\ for the Son was 
manifest in the world, and they that truly heard 
received life — Lazarus physical life, Mary Magdalene 
and countless others spiritual life. 

So we are led back to the ground of the Son’s 
relation to men in His relation to the Father. By the 
will and gift of the Father, the Son has the pre- 



1 1 4 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

rogative to be a spring of life. We have life in Him; 
He has Life in himself . And in the same way the Father 
has given Him the prerogative of judgement, because 
— can it be so? Yes — 

Because he is Son of Man . The words come in as a 
thunderclap, as the same words did in i, 51. We 
could easily understand that He should represent God 
in the judgement because He is Son of God. Yet that 
is not the reason given. The Father gave him authority 
to execute judgement because he is Son of Man. There is 
no definite article, so it is not the Messianic title that 
is used; though there could not fail to be recollection 
of that title, which is especially associated with the 
Messiah, coming in glory as Judge. And that sug- 
gestion eases the way. But that is not the meaning. 
The Son is Judge in virtue of His humanity. It is not 
by the standard of remote and awful deity that we are 
judged, but by the standard of human perfection. More 
than that. As “ we have not a High Priest ”, so also 
we have not a Judge 41 that cannot be touched with 
the feeling of our infirmities, but one that hath been 
tempted in all points like as we are, apart from (the 
temptations that spring from) sin ” ( Hebrews iv, 15). 

Rex tremendae majestatis, 

Qui salvandos salvas gratis, 

Salva me, fons pietatis. 

* 

28, 29. Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in which all that 
are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that 
wrought good to a resurrection of life, and they that did evil to a 
resurrection of judgement. 

There is no call to marvel at what is said, in com- 
parison with the great event which is to be — the 
universal resurrection, where life awaits them that 
wrought good , and judgement them that did evil . The 
contrast of phrase is interesting. Good is something 



CHAPTERS V and VII 


”5 

substantive and enduring ; evil is an evanescent 
quality. 

* 

30. For me — I cannot do anything of myself. As I hear, I judge. 
And iny judgement is just, because I do not seek the will that is mine 
but the will of him that sent me. 

A transition from the general teaching, with its 
reference to the historic Jesus, to the claim of that 
historic figure Himself. As the Son cannot do anything 
of himself ( 1 9) so now the Lord says 1 cannot do anything 
of myself Hearing is substituted for seeing because 
the special action in question is judgement. As I hear , 
I judge. Judgement, like glory (i, 14) and activity 
(v, 19) proceeds from the Son, but its origin is in the 
Father . Consequently it is perfectly just, for it is God’s 
own judgement. 

Judgement introduces the idea of evidence, so we 
pass on to the evidence which should lead to belief 
and how it comes to be rejected. 

* 

31-40. If I bear witness concerning myself, my witness is not true. 
He that beareth witness concerning me is another, and I know that 
the witness which he beareth concerning me is true. Ye have sent 
to John and he hath borne witness to the truth. But I receive not 
witness from a man. But this I say that ye may be saved; he was 
the lamp that burneth and shineth; and ye were willing to rejoice 
for a season in his light. But I have witness greater than John’s. 
For the works which the Father hath given to me that I may finish 
them — the very works which I am doing — bear witness concern- 
ing me that the Father hath sent me. And the Father who sent me, 
he hath borne witness concerning me. Ye have never either heard 
his voice or seen his form. And ye have not his word abiding in you, 
because whom he hath sent ye do not believe. Ye search the scrip- 
tures, because ye think in them to have eternal Life, and they are 
what bear witness concerning me; and ye will not come to me that 
ye may have Life. 

To all that had been said the Jews might answer 
“ We have only your word for it. Why should we 



ii 6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

believe a man making these claims for himself? ” The 
Lord admits, or rather asserts, that if there were nothing 
but His word for it, that would not be convincing 
evidence. Indeed, if His word stood alone, it would 
not be true at all. For divine revelation did not begin 
and end in Him, though it reached its crown and finds 
its criterion in Him. There must be other evidence, 
not only to support His own, but because the nature 
of His claim is such that it can only be true if all the 
work of God — the entire universe so far as it is not 
vitiated by sin — attests it. But indeed that attesta- 
tion is forthcoming. He that beareth witness of me is 
another — that is, the Father, who bears witness 
through the works and through the scriptures . 

The Jews had themselves asked John and he hath 
borne witness to the truth. But it is not from him or 
from any man that the Lord accepts testimony. Yet 
He is willing to refer to this in hope that the memory 
may stir His hearers and so they may be saved. And 
John, though not the light , but sent to bear witness of 
the light (i, 8) was yet a lamp burning and shining in 
whose light they had once rejoiced; so they may heed 
his witness. But the Lord does not rely on that; He 
has a greater witness than John's ; the works that He 
is doing — like this healing of the impotent man — 
which the Father hath given me that I may finish them 
— these are the witness for those who can understand 
them. They are also the means whereby the Son 
glorifies the Father (xvii, 4); and in reference to them 
He will one day cry It is finished (xix, 30). For we 
must not isolate the signs ; they are but points in the 
whole activity to which attention is easily drawn. The 
works which I am doing includes the whole activity of 
the Word made flesh. 

And the Father which sent me , he hath borne witness 
concerning me — through the voice which spoke at the 
Baptism saying “ Thou art my beloved Son ” (<SY. 
Mark i, 11). But that voice was not for all to hear. 



CHAPTERS V and VII 


117 

These Jews never heard it. Nor was the vision of the 
descending Spirit for all to see (St. Mark i, 10; St. 
John i, 33): Ye have never either heard his voice or 
seen his form. And as they were incapable of receiving 
that outwardly given revelation, so they were without 
the inward word that speaks in the heart and conscience. 
Ye have not his word abiding in you. There is ground 
for this assertion; for if they had God’s word within 
they would recognise the objective utterance of the 
word of God without; but they do not: whom he hath 
sent ye do not believe. 

We are always clamouring for compelling proof. 
It is really there. But we are blind to it. 

There is one resource left to them. Though they 
reject the witness of the works and cannot hear the 
witness of the Father himself, they have the scriptures. 
But they treat them wrongly. Ye search the scriptures. 
The word for search does not suggest spiritual penetra- 
tion but meticulous analysis — such as led to the 
tortured interpretations of the Midrash. Such a pry- 
ing (like that of our contemporaries who suppose that 
God is such as to hide the chronology of all history in 
the numbers given by Daniel or The Apocalypse , or the 
Great Pyramid! “Yet He also is wise”, as Isaiah 
remarked) — such a prying proceeds from a supposi- 
tion that in the scriptures we have eternal life. So we 
have; but much turns on that little word in. It is not 
prying into the letter of the sacred text that leads to 
life, though we cannot study that text too diligently 
if we are looking in the right way. For they are what 
hear witness concerning me\ but that witness can only 
be found by those who read in order to arrive at 
spiritual communion with the divine Spirit “ who spake 
by the Prophets”. The Jews did not so read them; 
and therefore cannot recognise the fulfilment of them. 
Ye search the scriptures ; and they hear witness concerning 
me ; and ye will not come to me that ye may have Life. 
There is nothing so pathetic as devotion gone astray. 



r 1 8 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

And we are in that state whenever our devotion does 
not lead us to Christ Himself — not the Christ of our 
fancy but the true Christ. “ And if any man have not 
the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his ” (Romans viii, 9). 

* 

Now the two passages — the Son and the Father, 
the Son and men — are brought together. 

41-47. Glory from men I receive not. But I know you, that the love 
of God ye have not in yourselves. I am come in the name of my 
Father, and ye do not receive me. If another come in his own name, 
him ye will receive. How can such as you believe, receiving glory 
from one another, and the glory from the only God ye do not seek? 
Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one that 
accuseth you — Moses, on whom ye have set your hope. For if 
ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for concerning me he 
wrote. But if ye do not believe his writings, how shall ye believe 
my sayings? 

Glory from men I receive not . No : His is glory as of 
an only-begotten from a Father (1, 14). And this is His 
because of that love which binds together the Father 
and the Son, and is the principle of that unity of 
action described above. In the Jews this love of God 
finds no place — as is proved by their rejection of one 
who is come in the name of the Father — that is as His 
accredited representative, doing His works and speak- 
ing His words. But some false Messiah, who has no 
divine commission, but comes in his own name , they 
will receive — as they did, to their destruction. 

What is the root of this spiritual failure? As 
ahvays, it is pride. They are loyal to their tradition; 
but they wish to be praised for their loyalty. So they 
are in fact only loyal to that in it which their comrades 
value. Each wants to be a good Pharisee, or a good 
Sadducee — a good Catholic or a good Evangelical. 
Instead of penetrating to the living heart of the tradi- 
tion, which was God-given, each eyes his neighbour, 
and seeks his applause. So partisans are made, for 



CHAPTERS V and VII 119 

whom faith itself is perverted. How can ye believe 
receiving (as you do) glory from one another , and do not 
(even) seek the glory from the only God . I heard a great 
sermon which Bishop Gore preached on that text with 
its terrible refrain “ To be the inheritors of a great 
tradition gives men heroism, and it gives them blindness 
of heart 

The Lord will not accuse us to the Father. There 
is no need. All that we trust in accuses us, if it has 
not taught us to hear and believe on Him. 

& 

VII, 1 5-24. The Jews therefore began to wonder, saying “ How 
knoweth this man letters not having been a pupil? ” Jesus therefore 
answered them and said “ My teaching is not mine but his -that sent 
me. If any man wills to do his will, he shall know concerning the 
teaching whether it is of God or I speak from myself. He that 
speaketh from himself seeketh the glory that is his own; but he that 
seeketh his glory that sent him, this man is true and unrighteousness 
is not in him. Did not Moses give you the law? and none of you 
keepeth the law. Why do ye seek to kill me? ” The crowd answered 
4C Thou hast a demon; who is seeking to kill thee? ” Jesus answered 
and said to them “ One work did I do and ye are all wondering 
because of this. Moses hath given you circumcision (not that it is 
of Moses but of the fathers) and on a sabbath ye circumcise a man. 
If a man received circumcision on a sabbath that the law of Moses 
be not broken, are ye angry at me because I made a whole man 
healthy on a sabbath? Do not judge by looks but judge righteous 
judgement.” 

The manner of the Lord’s reply (v, 39-47) had 
been that of a Rabbinical disputant. Yet He was not, 
so far as was known, the pupil of any well-known 
Rabbi, as Saul of Tarsus was a pupil of Gamaliel. 
From whom had He learnt? The Lord accepts the 
position assumed in the question. He does not say 
that He had no need of any teacher; and He expressly 
denies that He is Himself the source of His teaching. 
He speaks what He has heard — from the Father (16; 
cf. v, 19, 30). But the condition of hearing what the 
Father says is union of will with the Father. The Son 



120 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

was come to do that will (30). But the Jews had 
not this purpose, and therefore could not “ hear ” the 
Father. If any man wills — purposeth — to do His will , 
he shall know concerning the teaching whether it is of God. 
It is not necessary for this that a man should have 
reached the point of perfect obedience; but it is 
necessary that he should intend perfect obedience. 

It is the pure in heart who see God (St. Matthew v, 8) 
and it is the vision of God that purifies the heart 
(/ John iii, 2). The two mystical sayings are both of 
them true: “We see what we are”; “we become 
what we see ”. How then can we make any progress? 
If we were all, so to speak, of one piece we could not. 
But we are compact of many elements; we have our 
better and our worse moments. Spiritual progress 
depends on the use which we make of our best moments. 
Much spiritual discipline is rendered futile by its con- 
centration upon what is bad in the soul, that it may be 
purged away by confession and. penance. This is a 
necessary element in any spiritual discipline. In order 
to be cleansed of any sin we must first confess the sin, 
recognise that it is there or, as some psychologists 
would say, “ accept ” it. But this, though necessary, 
is secondary and derivative. Our conviction of sin 
springs from our vision of God, and each fresh con- 
viction of sin from a new and clearer vision of God. 
That vision is the all-important matter; our moments 
of vision are the vital and vitalising moments. The 
clarity of the vision will be proportionate to our purity 
of heart; but the vision itself — clear or blurred — is 
the only purifier of the heart. 

So we must at least intend to do God’s will if we 
are — not indeed to “ see ” Him, which is a more 
advanced stage, but — to “ hear ” Him and so know 
that the teaching is from God. That can never be proved 
to us while we intend disobedience, as a reason for 
becoming obedient. 

The suggestion that the Lord is no “ pupil ”, which 



CHAPTERS V and VII 


X 2 1 


He meets by the claim to be a pupil of the Father, 
suggests the motive of teaching. One who sets out 
to be original, who speaks from himself ', is likely to 
be seeking his own honour and glory. The modern 
world with its strange, new and probably transient 
belief in “ progress ”, tends to give much credit to 
“ originality ”, even to the point of doubting whether 
anything else is quite sincere. It wants a new contribu- 
tion to thought; and in its grotesque individualism 
supposes that every man who truly expresses his own 
relation to the world will say something different from 
what anyone else would say. But there must be some 
great and fundamental truths in comparison with 
which the peculiar reactions of individual souls are an 
irrelevance and an impertinence, and of which a man 
should seek to be no more than an undistorting 
medium. Where the eternal truths are concerned 
the search for originality by speaker or hearer is a 
puerility. One who indulges in it will only falsify his 
presentation. But if the sole desire is to give glory to 
Him concerning whom the truth is to be spoken, there 
will be sincerity and accuracy in the presentation — 
this man is true and unrighteousness is not in him. 

All the trouble arose from the question about the 
sabbath. Moses gave the law of the sabbath, but none 
of these champions of the law really keep it — as is 
evidenced by the fact that there had been an attempt 
to murder (of course by respectable methods) a teacher 
of whom they disapproved (v, 18). But the crowd 
had not known about that ; they had followed the open 
discussion, but had not known what was secretly 
plotted. So they think the Lord is the victim (as we 
say) of a delusion, or (as they said) of a demon. The 
Lord, to make His meaning clear, takes up again the 
relation of His action to that law of Moses by which 
they would condemn Him. The law said “ Who- 
soever doeth any work on the sabbath day he shall 
surely be put to death” (Exodus xxxi, 15; xxxv, 2). 



122 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

The Lord states in set terms that He has brought 
Himself under that law, I did one work — sc. on the 
sabbath; and it has thrown them all into a turmoil of 
bewilderment. But wait. Moses himself solves the 
problem. Moses gave the sabbath law; Moses also 
gave the law of circumcision — though the rite and 
the obligation to perform it go back to the Patriarchs. 
These two laws may clash; and when they do, the 
law of the sabbath yields to the law of circumcision 
which requires the doing of that work on the eighth 
day, even though it be the sabbath. But if what con- 
cerned only one member of the body might — nay, 
must — be done on the sabbath, might not a work 
which gave health to the whole body be done on the 
sabbath? 

Their whole temper and method were wrong. 
They would search the scriptures and then try to apply 
texts to life in meticulous detail. The result was 
bound to be superficial. Do not judge by looks. Go 
to the heart of the matter; that is to say, consider 
God’s purpose expressed in the law and the relation of 
any action (act and motive together) to that purpose; 
judge righteous judgement. 

So the first controversy, which was started by the 
healing of the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, 
comes to its end. The Lord has turned the methods 
of the Rabbis against them; He has disclosed to those 
who have eyes to see a conception of God, and therefore 
of obedience to Him, wholly foreign to them. He has 
been triumphant in the argument; but has aroused a 
hostility that can be satisfied only by His death (vii, x). 



CHAPTER VII 


(W4) 

1-9. And after these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for he was not 
willing to walk in Judaea because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 
But there was at hand the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Tabernacles. 
His brethren therefore said unto him “ Depart hence and go into 
Judaea, that thy disciples also may behold thy works that thou doest. 
For no man acteth in secret and seeketh to be himself in public. If 
thou doest these things, shew thyself to the world.” For not even 
his brethren believed on him. Jesus therefore saith to them u My 
moment is not yet come; but the moment that is yours is always 
ready. The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth, because I bear 
witness concerning it that its works are evil. Go ye up to the feast. 
Not yet do I go up to this feast, because my moment is not yet fully 
come.” And having said this he remained in Galilee. 

It was natural that after so scathing a rebuke to the 
leaders in Jerusalem, who had already began to think 
how they might kill Him (v, 1 6 and 1 8), the Lord should 
return to the more friendly Galilee, and walk there. 
The peculiar term vividly recalls the manner of His 
mission, walking from place to place with His own 
company of disciples, partly instructing them and 
partly making His proclamation {St. Mark i, 14, 38) 
to the people at large. We do not know how long this 
sojourn in Galilee lasted; that depends on the amount 
of time allowed for the controversy which developed, 
near the time of the Passover (vi, 4, and v, 1), about the 
healing at the Pool of Bethesda. It is at the close of 
that controversy that He goes to Galilee; it is at the 
end of September or beginning of October that He 
returns to Jerusalem. Anyhow, the time is long 
enough to make His sceptical brethren impatient. 

The Feast of Tabernacles was the great feast of the 
year. It was at once a Harvest Thanksgiving and a 
commemoration of the settlement in the Promised 


123 



124 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Land. It is thus a specially national festival, and the 
controversy that arose at it appropriately finds its 
culmination in the relations of Jesus to Abraham, the 
father of the Chosen People. The story that follows is 
full of the turmoil of a popular festival. Westcott 
writes: “ No section of the Gospel is more evidently 
a transcript from life than this. It reflects a complex 
and animated variety of characters and feelings. 
Jerusalem is seen crowded at the most popular feast 
with men widely different in hope and position : some 
eager in expectation, some immovable in prejudice. 
There is nothing of the calm solemnity of the private 
discourse, or of the full exposition of doctrine before 
a dignified body, such as has been given before. All is 
direct, personal encounter. The ‘ brethren ’ of the 
Lord (vii, 3 ff.), ‘the Jews’ (vii, x, 11, 13, 15, 
35; viii, 22, 48, 52, 57), ‘ the multitudes ’ (vii, 12 ff.), 
* the multitude ’ (vii, 1 2, 20, 3 1 f., 40 f., 43, 49), 
1 the people of Jerusalem ’ (vii, 25), ‘ the Pharisees ’ 
(vii, 32, 47; viii, 13), ‘ the chief-priests (i.e. the Sad- 
ducean hierarchy) and Pharisees ’ (vii, 32, 45, for the 
first time), 1 Nicodemus ’ (vii, 50), ‘ the Jews who 
believed him ’ (viii, 31), appear in succession in the 
narrative, and all with clearly marked individuality. 
Impatient promptings to action (vii, 3 ff.), vague 
enquiries (vii, 1 1), debatings (vii, 12, 40 ff.), fear on 
this side and that (vii, 13, 30, 44), wonder (vii, 15, 
46), perplexity (vii, 25 ff.), belief (vii, 3 1 ; viii, 30), 
open hostility (vii, 32), unfriendly criticism (vii, 23 ff.; 
viii, 48 ff.), selfish belief in Christ’s Messianic dignity 
(viii, 31 ff.), follow in rapid succession. All is full of 
movement, of local colour, of vivid traits of conflicting 
classes and tendencies.” 

His brethren were (no doubt) the sons of Joseph by 
an earlier marriage. They attempt to exercise the 
authority commonly claimed by elder brothers. They 
are sceptical, as elder brothers might be expected to 
be. They are not hostile, but are puzzled by their 



CHAPTER VII 


125 

younger Brother’s reputation in Galilee* and would 
like it and its grounds to be subjected to the test of 
the more sophisticated minds in Jerusalem, His 
retirement to the relative seclusion of Galilee is in- 
compatible with His claim to be one sent from God. 
That involves publicity for Himself; if so* His works 
also must be as public as possible. The feast gives 
the opportunity; it will collect vast crowds. If (as 
rumour has it) thou doest these things * shew thyself to 
the world. 

He answers that his moment is not yet come . The 
phrase is unique* and points* not to the predestined 
“ hour ” (ii* 4) but to a fitting opportunity — what we 
call “ the psychological moment ”, It -was always 
their moment ; they fitted into the world and shared its 
outlook; they had no need to watch for the fitting 
occasion on which to declare themselves. Towards 
them there was no antagonism; the world cannot hate 
you . But towards Him there was antagonism* because 
He disclosed the evil of the world. So they should 
go up with the other pilgrims to the feast; He will 
not go yet. Thus, in fact* He would avoid the mob 
of pilgrims; and when He appears at the feast it is 
not as one of the pilgrim-worshippers but as a Prophet. 

This is a not infrequent experience in the life of 
discipleship. We want Him to accompany us (so to 
speak) on some enterprise* and to vindicate what is 
said on His behalf by us or by others through the 
signal success that He enables us to win. But we are 
left in fact to toil on with no glad sense of His presence 
as our companion ; and at the end we find Him await- 
ing us with the Prophet’s rebuke for our defect of 
wisdom or of loyalty; when we have Him again with 
us it is not as the encouraging fellow-traveller* but as 
the Judge condemning the faults which unfit us for 
His service. Yet that judgement too is mercy; for the 
goal of the “ call upwards of God in Christ Jesus ” 
(Philippians iii* 14), is not our service of Him, with 



126 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

which He can very easily dispense, but that we should, 
like Him, “ be perfect as our heavenly Father is 
perfect ” (St. Matthew v, 48). 

10-14. But when his brethren were gone up to the feast, then he also 
went up, not openly but, as it were, in secret. The Jews therefore 
were looking for Him at the feast and saying “ Where is that man? ” 
And murmuring concerning him was rife among the crowds; some 
were saying that he was a good man; others were saying “ No, but 
he misleads the crowd Yet no one was speaking publicly about 
him for fear of the Jews. But when the feast was already half over, 
Jesus went up into the Temple and began to teach. 

The absence of the Lord causes a concern about 
Him greater than His presence. (Most of His fol- 
lowers have found that to be true in their own experi- 
ence.) We find a contrast drawn between “ the Jews ” 
and “ the crowds ”. The latter also were Jews; but 
that name is mostly kept by St. John for the more or 
less official representatives of Jewry. It is they who 
are actively looking for the Lord — presumably in order 
to carry out their now fixed intention of killing Him. 
But their interest is reflected in the interest and doubts 
of the crowds, who, however, are hindered by fear of 
the religious leaders, “ the Jews ”, from any open 
expression of their feelings. Then suddenly the Lord 
arrives and begins to teach. There is no ground on 
which He could be arrested, and the attention of both 
44 Jews ” and “ crowds ” is ensured, 

* 

(25-End) 

25-36. Some therefore of the people of Jerusalem began to say “ Is 
not this he whom they seek to kill? And lo, he speaketh publicly 
and they say nothing to him. Can it be that the rulers indeed know 
that this man is the Christ? But we know whence this man is; but 
when the Christ cometh, no one recogniseth whence he is.” So then 
Jesus cried aloud as he was teaching in the Temple saying, “ Ye both 



CHAPTER VII 


127 

know me and ye know whence I am; and yet I am not come of my 
own motion, but genuine is he that sent me whom ye know not. 
But I know him, because from him I am and he sent me.” They 
sought therefore to arrest him, and yet no one laid his hand on him, 
because his hour was not yet come. But from the crowd many 
believed on him and were saying u When the Christ cometh, will 
he do more signs than this man did? ” The Pharisees heard of the 
crowd murmuring thus concerning him, and the chief priests and 
the Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus therefore said “ Yet 
a little while I am with you, and I go to him that sent me. Ye shall 
seek me and shall not find me, and where I am, ye cannot come.” 
The Jew’s therefore said among themselves “ Where is this fellow 
about to go that even we shall not find him? Will he go to the dis- 
persion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What is this 
saying which he spake c Ye shall seek me and shall not find me and 
where I am ye cannot come ’? ” 

The crowd, impressed, wonder for a moment if He 
really is the Christ and if the rulers know this. They 
put this aside, not because they think the rulers would 
not willingly kill the Christ — they knew too much 
about “ rulers ” to suspect them of tender consciences, 
but because the coming of the Christ was to be a 
mystery and there was (they thought) no mystery 
about the origin of Jesus. He accepts their claim 
that, in the obvious sense of the words, they know His 
origin; but in another sense they do not; for they 
know nothing of His mission, His sending. Yet that 
is His real significance. Behind Him is one who sent 
Him, and is a genuine sender — that is, who has full 
right and authority to send. He does not represent a 
sham authority; He is the ambassador of the real 
King. The Jews do not know that King, but the 
Lord knows Him, and he sent me. 

Here surely is ground for a charge. But no action 
follows. The crowd is inclining towards Him, and 
the Pharisees bring the authority of the Sanhedrin 
into play. (St. John never mentions “ scribes ”, which 
is one reason for declaring viii, 1-1 1 to be non- 
Johannine.) The Sanhedrin consisted of three classes, 
the Chief Priests, the Elders and the Pharisees or 



128 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Lawyers. The first were mainly concerned with the 
Temple, the last with the Synagogues. The Elders 
were closely associated with the Chief Priests, who 
were the members of the families which had held the 
office of Chief Priest. The Pharisees are the group in 
touch with the crowds, and become aware of what is 
being murmured among them; then the Chief Priests 
and Pharisees act together, sending some of the 
Temple-police in the hope of an arrest. 

It was an “ unholy combination ”. It is sad to 
reflect that when the extreme wings of ecclesiastical 
opinion are found united, it is usually in resistance to 
some movement which is afterwards seen to be blessed 
by God. No doubt it sometimes happens under the 
positive inspiration of a common faith; but more 
often it happens through fear for the safety of a 
tradition — which, if true, can be defended by mani- 
festation of its truth but not by a display of ecclesi- 
f astical authority. The Sadducees or Chief Priests now 
| combine with the Pharisees to check this innovator who 
? threatens the common element in their traditions. 

I But there was as yet no ground for an arrest, and 
| what the Lord proceeds to say certainly does not 
( provide one. He will be with them yet a little while — 
\ in fact, for about six months. And then I go to Him 
that sent me , and where I am ye cannot come. This is 
the first introduction of a theme to which He will 
return (xiii, 33). His departure will be misunder- 
stood. It will seem like the end of Him and the ruin 
of His cause; but it will in fact be His triumphant 
return to the Father (xvi, 10). Some hint of the 
mystery is offered in the words where I am. It is not 
merely where He will be that they cannot come, but 
where He is now, that is, in the bosom of the Father 
(i, 18). When He came down out of heaven (vi, 38), 
He did not leave Heaven, but all the while is in heaven 
(iii, 13). For Heaven is fellowship with the Father; 
from that fellowship He came down, or forth, into the 



CHAPTER VII 


12 9 

world, yet He was never without it. That fellowship 
with the Father is His abode at all times, to which 
none the less, in a certain sense to be more fully set 
forth later. He will return; and that is where His 
enemies cannot come . 

But, of course, they interpret the words as referring 
to movements on the earth; and ask contemptuously 
whether He will leave the sacred places of Israel, 
where there are competent authorities to expose His 
claim, and go to those who are scattered among the 
Greeks, or perhaps try to win adherents among the 
Greeks themselves. And He would indeed do just 
that after His Resurrection in His Body, the Church; 
but though that would be present to the minds of all 
readers of the Gospel, it is irrelevant to the meaning 
of the words as first spoken. 

% 

And now the Lord makes appeal to the people 
generally. 

37-44. Now on the last da 7, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood 
and cried aloud saying “ If any man thirst, let him come to me and 
drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture said, out of Ms 
belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (But this spake he of the 
Spirit which they who had believed on him were about to receive ; 
for not yet was there spirit because Jesus was not yet glorified.) 
From the crowd, therefore, some hearing these words began to 
say “ This man is truly the Prophet ”. Others were saying “ This 
is the Christ ”, Others again were saying “ Doth the Christ come 
out of Galilee? Did not the scripture say that from the seed of David 
and from Bethlehem, the village where David was, cometh the 
Christ? ” Division therefore arose in the crowd on account of him. 
And some of them were ready to arrest Mm, but no man laid hands 
on him. 

Part of the ceremonial at the Feast of Tabernacles 
was a libation of water, which was understood as 
symbolising the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit. On 
the last day, when this thought had been thus empha- 
sised for a week, the Lord made a proclamation. Like 



130 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

other Rabbis, He was accustomed to sit as He taught 
(<SV. Matthew v, i, 2 and many other passages). But 
now He stood and cried aloud saying “ If any man 
thirst , let him come to me and drink ”. He claims that 
in Him may be found the fulfilment of all which this 
ritual represents. Not only so, but those who slake 
their spiritual thirst at that spring will become them- 
selves fountains for the spiritual refreshments of others. 
He thus carries further the teaching given to the 
woman of Samaria (iv, 14). He who trusts in Christ 
not only receives the water of life that springs up to 
eternal life, but becomes the source of that gift to 
others. For no one can possess (or, rather be indwelt 
by) the Spirit of God and keep that Spirit to himself. 
Where the Spirit is, He flows forth; if there is no 
flowing forth, He is not there. 

The fulfilment of these words came at Pentecost. 
The experience which the early Church called holy 
spirit and attributed to the Holy Spirit was as yet 
unknown. It could not arise until Jesus was glorified. 
For it was precisely that new power of God over the 
heart and will which was won by the eliciting of 
loyalty and love in answer to the divine love manifested 
in Jesus. Therefore it could only come when Jesus 
had fully disclosed that love in His Passion, wherein 
the glory was consummated. 

Some, caught by the splendour and authority of 
the claim, are ready to hail the Lord as the prophet who 
was to come; others, as the Christ. But to this it was 
replied that He lacked the scriptural qualifications 
which were that the Christ should be of the seed of 
David, and from Bethlehem. (Readers of the Gospel 
would know that in fact He had both.) So there is a 
division. The judgement is at work. Some are pre- 
pared for an arrest, but no one actually moves to 
effect it. 



CHAPTER VII 


131 

45-49. The officers therefore came to the Chief Priests and Pharisees, 
and these said to them “ Why did ye not bring him? ” The officers 
answered “ Never man so spake as this man speaketh The 
Pharisees therefore answered them “ Have ye also been led astray? 
Did a single one of the rulers believe on him or a single one of the 
Pharisees? But this mob which knows not the law are accursed.” 

Even the officers are impressed; they feel that 
there is a strange power in His words. Their masters 
are indignant; these fellows have only to obey orders 
and carry out their duties in a straightforward way; 
and have they been misled? They might follow the 
lead of those competent to form a judgement, not this 
ignorant and accursed crowd. 

# 

50-52. Nicodemus saith unto them — he that came to him before — ■ 
being one of their number “ Doth our law judge the man except it 
first hear his statement and take note what he is doing? •” They 
answered and said to him “Art thou also from Galilee? Look closely 
and see that out of Galilee a prophet is not arising.” 

Nicodemus still does not come out into the open. 
The most he can do is to find a legal ground for 
deferring judgement. This irritates his colleagues. 
They ask if he too is a Galilean that he sympathises 
with the Galilean upstart. There had arisen prophets 
from Galilee, no doubt — Jonah and Hosea, for 
example; but it was not happening this time; a little 
close observation would convince him of that! 


Note 

The story contained in vii, 53-viii, 11 is out of 
place here. It is not Johannine in phrasing; it is, in 
fact, Lucan. It is not found at this point in any of the 
oldest manuscripts. But one family of manuscripts 
has it at the end of St. Luke xxi. I have no doubt 



132 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

that that is its proper place. Where it occurs in our 
Bibles it interrupts the movement of thought. It was 
probably introduced here originally as an illustrative 
gloss on the words I judge no man (viii, 15). I shall 
reserve comment on it till the end of Chapter VIII. 



CHAPTER VIII * 


( 1 2 -End) 

We are still in the Feast of Tabernacles,, one phase 
of the controversy having been recorded. On the 
first day of that feast the great golden candlesticks in 
the Court of the Women were lit; and in general this 
Feast was associated with the thought of light. 

1 2-20. Again therefore Jesus spake to them saying “ I am the Light of 
the World. He that followeth me shall in no case walk in the dark- 
ness, but shall have the light of Life.” The Pharisees therefore said 
to him “ Concerning thyself thou bearest witness; thy witness is not 
true Jesus answered and said to them “ Even if I bear witness 
concerning myself, true is my witness, because I know whence I 
came and whither I go; but ye, ye know not whence I come or 
whither I go. Ye judge according to the flesh; I do not judge any 
man. Even if I judge, the judgement that is mine is true, because 
I am not alone, but I and he that sent me. And in your own law 
it is written that the witness of two men is true. I am he that beareth 
witness concerning myself, and the Father which sent me beareth 
witness concerning me.” They began therefore to say to him 
“ Where is thy Father? ” Jesus answered “Ye know neither me nor 
my Father. If ye knew me, ye would know my Father also.” These 
words spake Jesus in the Treasury as he taught in the Temple; and 
yet no man took him, because not yet was his hour come. 

Light is one of the dominant themes of the Gospel 
(cf. i, 4, 5). It will be constantly before us till the end 
of this controversial section (cf. xii, 46). The great 
controversy is indeed between Light and Darkness. 
We are familiar with the darkness of this world; we 
know from experience that the world is walking in 
darkness, and that Light is our supreme need. I am 
the light of the world. (It is useful to look up Light 
and Darkness in a concordance and use the passages 
so brought together in meditation.) To follow that 
light is to be delivered from the darkness which en- 

133 



134 READINGS IN ST. JOHN'S GOSPEL 

compasses the world, and to have the light of Life . 
The Life was the light (i, 4); to follow Christ, to walk 
In His spirit — the spirit of love — is to be in the 
light (/ John ii, 9-11). The light both flows from 
the life, and issues in the life. The cynic, who goes 
into the world determined to trust men no further 
than he can see them and to use them as pawns in his 
own game, will find that experience confirms his 
prejudice; for to such a man men will not shew the 
finer sides of their nature. The Christian, who goes 
into the world full of love and trust, will equally find 
that experience confirms his “ prejudice ", for to him 
men will shew the finer and more sensitive sides of 
their nature, and even where there was no generosity 
his love and trust will, at least sometimes, create it. 
But though each finds his view verified, the latter has 
the truer view, for he sees all that the other sees and 
more beside. 

You groped your way across my room T the dear dark dead of 
night; 

At each fresh step a stumble was; but, once your lamp alight. 
Easy and plain you walked again; so soon all wrong grew right. 

What lay on floor to trip your foot? Each object, late awry. 
Looked fitly placed, nor proved offence to footing free, for why? 
The lamp showed all, discordant late, grown simple symmetry. 

Be love your light, and trust your guide; with these explore my 
heart! 

No obstacle to trip you then — strike hands and souls apart! 
Since rooms and hearts are furnished so — light shews you — 
needs love start ? 1 

But this can only be known by experience, and at 
first by experiment. The Pharisees had no such experi- 
ence of following Christ, and saw no reason for making 
the experiment. After all this was no more than a 
claim on His own behalf such as any fanatic might 


1 Browning, Shah Abbas in FerishtaKs Fancies, 



CHAPTER VIII 


135 

make. Yet in such a case testimony is out of place. 
The evidence for light is that it shines. But it is true 
that the light which we see is never its own source. 
What qualifies the Lord to bear witness concerning him- 
self is that He knows the origin of that light which 
shines in Him and which He is. The Pharisees do 
not know His relation to the unseen world ( whence 1 
come), still less the fact that in Him the Word was 
made flesh ( whence 1 came). And such knowledge is 
beyond them because they judge after the flesh, by 
appearances and with unspiritual standards; I do not 
judge any man. This was not the purpose of the 
Lord’s coming (iii, if), nor was it His active practice; 
but judgement resulted from His presence (v, 22, 27; 
iii, 19). And so, in a most profound sense He judges, 
and His judgement is true , because it is not based on 
His sole testimony, but on the mind of the Father. 

The relevance of this theme of judgement arises 
from the fact that what constitutes the judgement is 
the relation which men take up towards the Lord. 
Therefore His testimony concerning Himself and His 
judgement of men are one and the same thing. Earlier 
(v, 31) He had Himself asserted the principle to which 
the Pharisees here make their appeal; self-witness is 
suspect; but now the Lord justifies self-witness by 
claiming that only in appearance {after the flesh) is it 
self-witness at all. In reality His witness is like the 
shining of light ; it is its own evidence, and its source 
is its sustaining principle. 

This involves a claim of such relationship to the 
Father as might well be made a charge of blasphemy. 
But that had been attempted before (v, 18) without 
effect. Now they try ridicule. If self-witness is suspect, 
an absent witness is futile. Where is thy Father? 
Produce Him. But to ask that question is to disclose 
an incapacity to receive the answer; the light is shining 
and they cannot see it. Ye know neither me nor my 
Father; if ye knew me, ye would know my Father also. 



1 36 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

We are very near the declaration to Philip: He that 
hath seen me hath seen the Father (xiv, 9). 

Those expressions were used in the colonnade of 
the Court of the Women where the Treasure-chambers 
were, close beside the hall of the Sanhedrin. It was 
the most public place in the Temple, and within hear- 
ing of the chief authorities. Tet no man took him , and 
the real reason for this was not the medley of human 
motives, but the divine purpose. 

* 

The rest of this Eighth Chapter contains the crisis 
of the controversy with the Jews. Let us recall what 
was said earlier (pp. 105-6) about the hardening pro- 
cess which is so natural in the recollection of what 
is long past; a relationship which developed into 
antagonism is felt to have had. that quality throughout. 
Episodes which contribute to the final breach are re- 
called; those which expressed a more friendly but less 
permanent relation tend to be forgotten. Yet even so, 
we find that the section in which the Lord is sternest 
opens with an indication of the way of hope (31-33). 
Moreover, much turns on the tone adopted for reading. 
The Lord uses language which no man such as we are 
is entitled to use to another; on our lips it could only 
express, not knowledge of an awful fact, but personal 
irritation. But with Him it is different. He knew the 
hearts of those to whom He spoke, and said these 
words of fearful condemnation, not in the irritation of 
one who is opposed, but in the sad and solemn quiet- 
ness of one who recognises a dreadful truth. It is 
quite possible, and surely right, to read all that He 
says in the tone appropriate to perfect love as it faces 
in calm sorrow the self-complacency and self-will of 
those who choose darkness rather than light. 

The first section (2. 1-30) states the Lord’s claim to 
be sent by the Father with unmistakeable lucidity, and 



CHAPTER VIII 


137 

leads up to the adherence of “ many ” (30). The 
next discloses the false basis of that faith which led 
the Jews to reject His claim, and leads up to the first 
violent assault upon Him (59), following His assertion 
of His priority to Abraham, the father of the faithful 
(58). So the controversy at this Feast of Israel the 
Nation leads to His claim to be the fulfilment of that 
nation's destiny and the repudiation of that destiny by 
the nation. 

21-30. He said therefore again to them “ I go away, and ye will seek 
me, and in your sin ye will die. Where I go, ye cannot come.” 
The Jews therefore began to say “ Will he kill himself, because he 
saith £ Where I go, ye cannot come ’? ” And he was saying to them 
“ Ye are from below, I am from above; ye are of this world, I am 
not of this world. I said therefore to you that ye will die in your 
sins. Unless ye believe that I am, ye will die in your sins.” They 
began therefore to say to him “ Thou — who art thou? ” Jesus 
said to them “ Why do I speak to you at all? I have many things 
to say concerning you, and to judge, but he that sent me is true, and 
I — what I heard from him, this I speak to the world.” (They 
perceived not that he was speaking to them of the Father.) Jesus 
therefore said to them “ When ye shall have lifted up the Son of 
Man, then shall ye recognise that I am, and that from myself I do 
nothing, but as the Father taught me I speak these things. And he 
that sent me is with me; he hath not left me alone, because what is 
pleasing to him I do at all times.” As he was speaking these things 
many believed on him. 

Again, as in vii, 34, the Lord declares that He is 
going where the Jews cannot follow Him; this goal 
of His journeying is the bosom of the Father , the per- 
fection of love which is perfect unity with God. In 
one sense He is there all the time (i, 18; iii, 1 3) ; yet 
to be there in the conditions of human life, which passes 
from infancy through boyhood to manhood and so to 
death, is to be ever advancing in the completeness with 
which love finds expression in life. Jesus was always 
perfect or sinless — the two words mean the same; 
but the perfection of the boy is not that of the man, so 
He could “ increase in wisdom and stature and in 
favour with God and men ” ( Su Luke ii, 52). And as 



1 38 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

man He could advance in fulness of love’s expression 
till He loved to the uttermost (xiii, i) and in love’s 
perfect manifestation on the Cross attained to the 
eternal glory (xvii, i, 5). This is where the Jews 
cannot come — nor the disciples now, though they 
shall later (xiii, 36). And everything else is sin, for 
sin is all that “ falls short of the glory of God ” ( Romans 
iii, 23). There are only two possible centres for life — 
God and self. If we are not becoming centred upon 
God, we are becoming centred upon self; and self- 
centredness is the essence of sin. The Jews — and 
we — may seek for the Light of the world, the Light 
of life. But so far as we remain self-centred we can 
never find it, and must die in our sin. 

The Jews try to escape by mockery; there was a 
path they could not follow, the suicide’s path to the 
lowest hell 1 The answer is that while He is from above , 
they are of this world , with vision limited to it. Unless 
they can trust in Him who is from above , they will die 
in their sins — the varied manifestation of the essential 
sin spoken of immediately before. 

Unless ye believe that I am. The phrase I am occurs 
here (24) and again in 28 and in 58 (cf. iv, 26; xiii, 
19). The fact that it occurs three times in this con- 
troversy is a pointer. It cannot be reproduced in 
English, for it combines three meanings: ( a ) that I am 
what I say — sc. the Light of the World; (b) that I 
am He — the promised Messiah ; (r) that I am — 
absolutely, the divine Name. All these are present; 
none is actually indicated; the hearers must take that 
(or those) which their own minds suggest. 

Let us recall here that the controversy is inevitably 
conducted at cross-purposes because of the different 
moral levels on which the parties to it stand. The 
Lord is obliged to be obscure and allusive, because 
only so can He lead His hearers to His own stand- 
point. If He spoke to them in plain terms, they would 
interpret these according to their own outlook, and so 



CHAPTER VIII 


139 

in uttering truth He would convey falsehood. Thus 
when they ask explicitly Who art thou ? — the natural 
enquiry after what He has just said — He cannot 
reply “ I am the Christ ”, still less “ I am God in- 
carnate ”, because they would interpret these words 
according to their own conceptions of Christ and of 
God and would therefore entirely misunderstand Him. 
He is not the conquering Messiah of their hopes ; He 
is not the Sultanic God of their beliefs. He is true 
Christ and true God; but what these are we see only 
in Him. Therefore He must go on directing atten- 
tion to His own Person — to the Light that is come 
into the world — leaving them to appreciate its bright- 
ness. So when they ask Who art thou? He answers 
Why do I speak to you. at all? Speaking does no good. 
The only way to answer that question is to live, as 
He is living, the perfect life. 

[The reply in 25 is a famous difficulty. The trans- 
lation given follows the interpretation of Chrysostom. 
The words could also mean “ Essentially I am what I 
say ” — My Person is My message. The upshot is 
the same. The words can hardly bear the translation 
given by both A.V. and the text of R.V.; but the 
margin of R.V. should nearly always be preferred to 
its text.] 

He has indeed many things to say, not concerning 
Himself, about whom they ask, but concerning you , a?id 
to judge. But they are not of His origination. They 
come from the Father, and what the Lord speaks to 
the world is what He has heard in the intimacy of 
union with the Father; and the Father’s truth is beyond 
question. But they do not recognise that it is of the 
Father that He speaks; so the Lord goes on to foretell 
the critical moment. When ye shall have lifted up the 
Son of Man, then shall ye recognise that I am, and that 
from myself I do nothing, and as the Father taught me 1 
speak these things. The supreme revelation of the 
Cross would do its work, not at once, perhaps, but at 



1 4 o READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

last. So in xii, 32, where this phrase is repeated, the 
Cross, to which the Jews condemn their rejected 
Messiah, is to be the means of winning them — all 
men — to discipleship. It may happen at Calvary; it 
may happen through the preaching of the Gospel; it 
may happen only on that final day when “ every eye 
shall see him and they which pierced him ” ( Revelation 
i, 7). But it cannot fail. 

He that sent me is with me; he hath not left me alone , 
because what is pleasing to him I do at all times. It is 
this simple claim to divine companionship based on 
obedience which wins many to faith. So it always is. 
When a Christian can say that He has Christ in his 
heart, and offers a practical obedience as evidence and 
ground of this, he too wins many for his Lord. As he 
was speaking these things many believed on him. 

* 

Now the tone changes. The Lord turns to those 
who do not believe on Him, but do believe Him — 
that is to say, those who do not put their personal 
trust in Him, but are disposed to think that what He 
says is true. To go so far and then stop is a sign of very 
grave spiritual trouble. If a man cannot believe the 
Gospel at all, it may be that some new presentation of 
it may carry it past all obstacles to reach his conscience, 
heart, and mind. But if he does believe it, yet fails to 
put practical trust in Him whom it presents, there is 
some fatal influence at work in opposition. And how 
many of us fall, wholly or in part, under that descrip- 
tion! As we read the stern words that follow, let us 
not ask so much how He the Lord of Love should so 
speak to the Jews, as whether we have deserved that 
the Lord of Love should so speak to us. Above all, 
let us remember, and here observe, how resistance on 
grounds of self-will to what we recognise as right 
and noble, has a hardening and embittering effect on 



CHAPTER VIII 141 

those in whom it is found which involves mortal peril 
to the soul. 

31-51. Jesus therefore began to say unto the Jews which had believed 
him “ If ye abide in the word which is mine ye are truly my disciples, 
and ye will recognise the truth and the truth will set you free ”, 
They made answer unto him “ Abraham’s seed are we, and to no 
man have we been in bondage at any time; how sayest thou 
£ Ye shall become free men ’? ” Jesus answered them “ Amen, 
Amen, I say to you, that everyone who practises sin is the bond- 
slave of sin. Now the slave doth not abide in the house for ever; 
the son abideth for ever. If therefore the Son shall set you free, 
really free shall ye be. I know that ye are seed of Abraham; yet 
ye seek to kill me, because the word that is mine makes no way in 
you. I for my part speak what I have seen with my Father; and ye 
therefore do what ye heard from your father.” They answered and 
said to him “ Our father is Abraham Jesus saith to them “ If ye 
are the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham. But as it 
is, ye are seeking to kill me, a man who has spoken the truth to you, 
which I heard from God. This Abraham did not. Ye do the works 
of your father.” They said to him “We were not born of fornica- 
tion ; one Father we have — God ”. Jesus said to them “ If God 
were your father, ye would love me; for from God I came forth 
and am here. For I have not come of myself, but he sent me. Why 
do ye not recognise my manner of speech? — because ye cannot hear 
the word that is mine. Ye are of your father, the devil, and the desires 
of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the 
beginning, and stood not in the truth because there is no truth in 
him. When he speaketh the false saying, he speaketh from his own 
store, because he is a liar and the father of falsehood. But because 
I speak the truth ye do not believe me. Who of you convicteth me 
of sin? If I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of 
God heareth the words of God; for this cause ye do not hear, that 
ye are not of God.” The Jews answered and said to him “ Are not 
we right in saying that Samaria is thy home and thou hast a demon? ” 
Jesus answered “ I have not a demon, but I honour my Father and 
ye dishonour me. But I do not seek my glory; there is one that 
seeketh it — and judgeth. Amen, Amen, I say to you, if a man 
observe my word he shall not notice death unto eternity.” 

The address to those who believe the Lord yet do 
not commit themselves in trust to Him, begins with 
encouragement. They have His word, which they 
believe; if they will make that, as it were, their home, 
then they are truly disciples, and so abiding and 
learning will come to recognise the truth. If ye abide 



i 4 2 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

in the word which is mine , ye are truly my disciples , and 
ye will recognise the truth. This perception or knowledge 
of the truth is more than intellectual and scientific 
knowledge, for which there is another word ; it is the 
knowledge of acquaintance. Loyal adherence to what 
they believe will convert that belief into trust; they 
will advance, so to speak, from being orthodox to being 
real Christians. And in that trust they will find 
freedom. Te will perceive the truths and the truth will 
set you free. Truth is the objective apprehension of 
things as they are, as distinguished from a vision dis- 
torted by desires and special interests. The way to 
spiritual freedom for men is always by surrender to 
the object — to the real facts in the life of science, 
to the goal or cause in practical conduct, to God as 
He reveals Himself in worship. But we do not always 
recognise our need for emancipation. When a man 
is both orthodox and self-assertive, believing the 
Gospel but not believing in it — a very familiar 
spiritual state — he is not recognising and making 
acquaintance with the truth. He is probably quite 
unconscious that he is in any bondage. He may 
preach the Gospel of redemption to others, and never 
know that he needs it himself. Pharisaism is not an 
exclusively Jewish phenomenon. The first of our 
needs is to know what our first need is — to be set 
free from bondage; but then we must accept and 
confess the fact that we are in bondage, and the more 
complete the bondage, the less are we aware of it. 
So these Jews insist that they are free men by heredity 
— Seed of Abraham are we and to no man have we 
been in bondage at any time — for they know that the 
Lord is not speaking of the freedom of political in- 
dependence. What gift of spiritual freedom is there 
which the Chosen People have not received? 

The answer is a solemn asseveration of a general 
principle. Amen , Amen , I say to you that every one 
who practises sin is the bond-slave of sin. The phrase 



CHAPTER VIII 


143 

excludes reference to the occasional lapse into sin, and 
refers to habitual or persistent sin. This thought of 
being enslaved to sin is expressed in the New Testa- 
ment only here, and in Romans vi, 17 and 20, and in 
II Peter ii, 19. It is rather Greek, or at any rate 
Socratic, than Hebraic. And it coheres with the 
specifically Christian thought of sin as essentially lack 
of faith (cf. xvi, 9). These Jews believe with their 
minds, but have not faith, which is belief active in 
trust or self-committal. To stop there is in a con- 
spicuous degree to -practise sin. Sin is the assertion 
of our own will as opposed to acceptance of God’s 
will; belief which stops short of faith is a conspicuous 
instance of this. Such a man cannot hear the word (43) 
by abiding in which he might come to perceive or 
recognise the truth and so find freedom. 

The term “ slave ” suggests by association a new 
distinction. No slave has a permanent status; that 
belongs only to the children of the house. For the 
slave of sin this is, in one way, good news: for he can 
be set free, and leave the house of sin ; but what if in 
that house he is not only slave but son, as he must be 
if his father is the devil? (44). Equally — and this 
is the line of thought first pursued — a bond-slave 
of God, who serves Him with the spirit of bondage 
( Romans viii, 1 5), has no permanent status in the house 
of God. Now, the spirit of legalistic Judaism was 
precisely the “ spirit of bondage ” — the spirit in' 
which a man does what is commanded and avoids 
what is forbidden, hoping for reward and fearing 
punishment. But the spirit of sonship, which can be 
ours only by adoption {Romans viii, 15) is that which 
prompts us to go far beyond commands and prohibi- 
tions and do at all times what is pleasing to our Father 
(29), not for reward or avoidance of punishment, but 
for love of Him; and this is the self-committal of 
faith. One who is thus committed in faith has a per- 
manent status in the home. The slave doth not abide 



i 4 4 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

in the house for ever ; the son abideth for ever . 

How can we acquire that status? A slave can- 
not emancipate himself; the sinful will cannot convert 
itself — its sinfulness must hinder that. If it could 
will its own conversion, it would already be converted. 
St. Augustine has said the last word about this in the 
Confessions (Book VIII, Chapters VIII and IX). The 
state which occasions the need for conversion renders 
it impossible actually so to will. Conversion must be 
wrought in us, indeed; but it cannot be wrought by 
us; it is something done to us. Expressed in terms 
of the contrast between the slave and the son, who can 
effect this? Only one who has in His own being the 
status of Sonship, and who, having it, can impart it. 
If therefore the Son shall set you free , really free shall ye be. 

The physical descent from Abraham is not chal- 
lenged. But the corresponding conduct is not found. 
For that physical descent is not the deepest truth of the 
matter. In quality the Jews are children of another 
father than Abraham, and they, like the Lord, act in 
accordance with their spiritual origin. I know that ye 
are seed of Abraham ; yet ye seek to kill me (v, x 8 ; vii, 
I, 25) because the word that is mine makes no way in you. 
They believed it, and that was the end; it had no free 
course in them; so their desire to be rid of Him 
remained. Both were true to their origin. I speak 
what I have seen with my Father; and ye therefore do 
what ye heard from your father. The utterance of the 
divine truth calls out in reaction a repudiation which, 
being in direct antagonism to God, is an impulse 
from the devil. But this is not yet made explicit. 
The Jews reiterate their descent from Abraham; Our 
father is Abraham. The Lord had admitted that in 
its superficial sense (37), but now He presses the 
inconsistency of conduct. If you are, act accord- 
ingly; but you do the opposite. If ye are children of 
Abraham , do the works of Abraham. But as it is ye are 
seeking to kill me , a man who has spoken the truth to you. 



CHAPTER VIII 


145 

This Abraham did not ; ye do the works of your father. 
It is someone else’s character, not Abraham’s, which is 
reproduced in their conduct. They see that He is 
speaking of spiritual paternity, not physical. But the 
form of their reply is pointless unless it refers to 
rumours about the Lord’s own birth — rumours which 
were the almost inevitable by-product of the actual 
fact; the Mother of the Lord did not escape the 
calumny that she foresaw when she accepted the 
highest honour ever given to human being (St. Luke 
i, 38). We (for our part — the pronoun is emphatic) 
were not born of fornication; one Father we have — God. 
But if this were the spiritual truth about them, they 
would love one who comes forth from God. They 
cannot recognise His way of speaking, because their 
spiritual ears are not attuned to the utterance which is 
characteristic of Him. If God were your father , ye 
would love me; for from God I came forth and am here. 
For I have not come of myself but he sent me. Why do ye 
not recognise my manner of speech ? — because ye cannot 
hear the word that is mine. No — neither Abraham nor 
God is their spiritual progenitor. Ye are of your father 
the devil — and there follow characteristics of the devil 
which explain the condition of his children. Killing and 
lying are natural to him; his children disbelieve what 
is said precisely because it is true. Because I speak the 
truth ye do not believe me. They have no case to bring 
in refutation ; they can accuse Him of no sin. Who of 
you convicteth me of sin? If I say the truth (and no one 
argues to the contrary), why do ye not believe me? It is 
because they are not, as they claimed to be (41), of God. 

But this is to abandon the Jewish creed an’d fall 
into Samaritan heresy. The Jews were* the chosen 
people of God; for anyone who accepts the Law to 
deny that is to adopt the Samaritan outlook. He is no 
better than a Samaritan, and a fanatic, demon-possessed, 
at that. The Lord does not quarrel with the taunt of 
Samaritanism. He was indifferent to that (iv, 21-24). 



1 46 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

The other taunt He quietly denies. I have not a demon , 
but I honour my Father , and ye dishonour me. What seems 
to them delusion is assurance based on obedience to 
the Father. I do not seek my glory ; for the Father’s glory 
is His only concern. But there is one that seeketh it ; the 
Father seeks glory for the Son, and as He seeks He 
judges men according as they give or withhold it. 
And the glory of the Son is that, by appointment of the 
Father, He is the giver of eternal life (v, 21-27), 
which may be so fully received from Him here and 
now that death becomes an incidental irrelevance. 
Amen , Amen , I say to you that if a man observe my wordy 
he shall not notice death unto eternity. 

Some verbal comments are needed here. The 
familiar translation is “ If a man keep my saying he 
shall never see death ”. And this, no doubt, is correct, 
and is the best that can be done in English, unless we 
are to exaggerate suggestions and nuances ; but it is 
part of my purpose rather to exaggerate them than to 
miss them, and while my version is guilty of this 
exaggeration, it may be useful in calling attention to 
points otherwise obscured from those who cannot make 
reference to the Greek. 

First, I have substituted “ observe ” for “ keep ”, 
because the primary thought is not that of preserving, 
or even obeying, but of watching. (So it is in Ephesians 
iv, 3, where we are not urged to preserve the unity 
of the Spirit — that is not our responsibility! — but to 
watch or observe it; we are to “ give diligence to 
observe the oneness of the Spirit ” however diverse 
His operations.) We are, so to speak, to live in ob- 
servance of the word of Christ as our constant standard 
of reference. Secondly, the Greek negative phrase 
does mean “never”; but it is not the usual word 
for “never”; it is an emphatic and expanded form 
— “not unto eternity”. Thirdly, the Greek words 
so translated are rightly rendered “ see death ”, and 



CHAPTER VIII 


147 

to “ see death ” is a recognised Hebraic expression 
for “die”; but again it is not the usual word for 
“ see ” which appears in the phrase “ not see death ” 
with reference to Simeon (St. Luke ii, 26) and Enoch 
(Hebrews xi, 5). The word chosen here is the word 
which implies special attention, as when it is used at 
its height, so to speak, of the contemplation of God 
(rov deov depcnreveiv xal deeopeiv Aristotle, Eudemian 
Ethics , 1 249 b 20), or, again, of noticing something as 
matter of interest, as when in vi, 2 the crowd is said 
to follow Jesus because they were noticing, or taking 
note of, the signs which He was working. 

So here, the Lord does not promise that anyone 
who keeps His word shall avoid the physical incident 
called death; but that if his mind is turned towards 
that word it will not pay any attention to death; 
death will be to it irrelevant. It may truly be said 
that such a man will not “ experience ” death, because, 
though it will happen to him, it will matter to him no 
more than the fall of a leaf from a tree under which 
he might be reading a book. It happens to him, but 
he does not in any full sense see or notice it. 

R. L. Nettleship, in one of his letters, writes: 
“ Fear of death, or clinging to life, is fear of or cling- 
ing to certain fragments of ourselves. If we could 
‘ energise ’ a great deal more continuously than most 
of us can, we might experience physical death literally 
without being aware of it.” 1 There is no mode of 
energy possible to man so absorbing and stimulating 
as to observe the word of Him who is the Word of God. 

The Jews realise that a stupendous claim has 
been made. They do not pause to notice the special 
expressions used; indeed in their irritation they un- 
consciously alter these. 

■ 1 R. L. Nettleship, Philosophical Remains, p. 93. 



148 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

52-58. The Jews said to him “Now we are sure that thou hast a 
demon. Abraham died, and the prophets, and thou sayest 4 If any 
man observe my word, he shall not taste of death unto eternity. 
Art thou greater than our father Abraham who died? — and the 
prophets died. Whom makest thou thyself?” Jesus answered “If 
. I shall glorify myself, my glory is nothing; there is my Father that 
glorifieth me, of whom ye say that he is your God. And ye are not 
acquainted with him, but I know him. And if I say that I do not 
know him, I shall be like you — a liar. But I know him and observe 
his word. Abraham your father exulted in the hope of seeing my 
day; and he saw and rejoiced.” The Jews therefore said unto him 
“ Not yet fifty years old art thou, and hath Abraham seen thee? ” 
Jesus said to them “ Amen, Amen, I say to you, before Abraham 
came into being, I AM They took up stones therefore to cast at 
him. But Jesus hid himself and went out of the Temple. 

The claim that if a man observe His word he shall 
be freed from death is the claim of a fanatic or lunatic 
— unless it is true! And the indignant Jews make it 
worse by missing the special nuance of the phrase used. 
They do not deliberately misquote; they have mis- 
apprehended, and use a phrase more appropriate to 
what they suppose to have been his meaning. Any- 
how, there is no doubt about the loftiness of the claim. 
Abraham, who kept God's word, died like other men ; 
so did the prophets, to whom the word of the Lord 
came. And here is one who claims that if any man 
observe my word, he shall never taste of death. [No; 
He had not said that. Jesus Himself “ tasted ” of 
death (Hebrews ii, 9); and His followers taste of it. 
Yet His mind was not fixed on death, but on the 
Father, into whose hands He committed His spirit 
(St. Luke xxiii, 46); and His followers may commit 
their spirits to Him (Acts vii, 59 ).] What claim is 
this? Whom makest thou thyself ? 

The Lord answers that He makes no .claim for 
Himself. He seeks not. His own glory (50), nor will 
He glorify Himself. To do so would, as they had 
rightly said (13),“ be futile. But there is one who 
' glorifies Him (we learn how more fully later — 
xvii, 5) — His Father, of whom ye say that He is your 



CHAPTER VIII 149 

God. They offer Him worship; but they are not 
acquainted with Him — they only know about Him. 
I know him\ it is the absolute knowledge of perfect 
understanding. He cannot deny that knowledge; to 
do so would be to come down to their level of false- 
hood. I know him and observe his word. Here, as 
always, the Lord is the true mediator. We : Christ : : 
Christ : the Father. 

But as concerns Abraham — he exulted in the hope 
of seeing my day. The Greek does not, so far, say that 
he saw it; the cause of exultation was the prospect, 
as opened by the great promises (Genesis xii, 3; xxii, 
1 8). But there was fulfilment as well as anticipation ; 
and he saw and rejoiced. There was a tradition among 
the Jews that in the vision recorded in Genesis xv, 
8-2 r Abraham saw the whole history of his descend- 
ants. There may be a reference here to this tradition. 
I am disposed to think the reference is rather to that 
apprehension of the eternal justice and mercy recorded 
in Genesis xviii, 16-33 — the pleading for the doomed 
cities. That stands out as a peak in the series of 
human apprehensions of the uttered mind — the Word 
— of God; and what follows shews that we are to 
think of the Lord as both existent and active in that 
time. But to attach these words to any recorded 
episode can be no more than a personal speculation. 

The Jews are partly puzzled, partly outraged. 
According to the best manuscripts they again, in the 
inaccuracy born of irritation, misquote what had been 
said: Not yet fifty years old art thou , and hast thou seen 
Abraham ? But perhaps it is more natural to prefer the 
other reading, though less well supported — hath Abra- 
ham seen thee ? In either case contempt for a foolish 
assertion is now added to bewilderment and anger. 

Amen , Amen , I say to you , before Abraham came into 
being , I AM. There is no doubt now about the asser- 
tion of an eternal personality ; there can be hardly any 
doubt about the claim to Deity. Yet it is made by 



150 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

allusion and implication. The words I AM need not 
of necessity mean more than an assertion of existence; 
they need not be the Divine Name revealed to Moses 
at the Bush (Exodus iii, 14). It still cannot be said 
that He has explicitly affirmed His Deity. That He 
will never do — as we shall find again at x, 30-36; 
the apprehension of that truth must come through the 
response of men’s souls. But He does lead us to the 
very verge of it. And if it is not true His language 
is the grossest blasphemy. These Jews, who began by 
fighting their own knowledge that His words were 
true, now have their chance to break into open and 
justified violence against Him. The Temple was still 
a-building, and there were stones lying about in its 
courts. They took up stones therefore to cast at him ; but 
he hid himself and went out of the Temple . 

The breach with the Jews has reached its climax. 
But the hour for the consequence of that breach was 
not come, and we watch the now declared hostility 
maturing through further episodes; and before we 
come to these we have to consider that interpolation 
which occupies the opening verses of Chapter VIII. 

The Woman taken in Adultery 

This episode is not Johannine; its language alone 
shews that. “ It is not found in any of the early Greek 
uncials with the single exception of Codex Bezae,” It 
is introduced here in illustration of viii, 15 — Te 
judge according to the flesh ; I do not judge any one. But 
though not Johannine it is undoubtedly a genuine 
record; its style is Lucan; and there is little reason 
to doubt that its proper place is at the end of St. Luke 
xxi, where some manuscripts actually give it. 

But the scribe who first wrote it in the margin as 
an illustrative gloss on viii, 15 had genius, and we 
are all his debtors. 



CHAPTER VIII 


151 

VII, 53-VIII, 1 1. And they went every man to his own home. And 
Jesus went into the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning he 
came again into the temple, and all the people came to him, and 
sitting down he taught them. And the Scribes and the Pharisees 
bring a woman taken in adultery, and having set her in the midst 
say to him 44 Master, this woman was taken in the very act of com- 
mitting adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone 
such; what then sayest thou? ” But they said this tempting him, 
that they might have opportunity to accuse him. But Jesus stooping 
down began to write on the ground. But when they went on asking, 
he lifted himself up and said to them 44 He that is without sin among 
you, let him first cast a stone at her And again stooping down he 
wrote upon the ground. But they, having heard, began to go out, 
one by one, beginning from the elders, and he was left alone, and the 
woman who was in the midst. And Jesus, having lifted up himself, 
said to her “ Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn thee? ” 
And she said 44 No one, Lord ”. And Jesus said 44 Neither do I con- 
demn thee; go; from now on do not sin any more ”. 

The story carries its own meaning. These odious 
ecclesiastics are so set upon their barren controversy 
that they will use a woman’s shame as a chance to 
score a point. They seem to gloat over the loathsome 
circumstances of the woman’s arrest — in the very act. 
Now, will this mercy-loving teacher, who is so lax 
about the law of the Church, openly express dissent 
from Moses ? If He does, He is trapped. 

But the Lord is tortured with the horror of it all. 
He will not look at them or at her. He stoops down 
to hide the burning confusion of His face and relieves 
His agitation by tracing patterns in the dust. Then 
for a moment He lifts up that Face which is “ of 
purer eyes than to behold iniquity ” and shoots out 
the challenging words. The Law is just, and adultery 
is horrible. But are any of these men qualified to 
inflict the sentence which that Law imposes? And the 
words go home. Something in the Speaker’s mien 
breaks down the concern, the quite real concern, of the 
controversialists to score their point, and penetrates to 
the springs of conscience. The scribe who inserted 
the words “ being convicted by their own conscience ” 
knew what had happened. One by one they slink 



i S 2 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

away. Then two are left — the Lord and the sinner. 
“ Where are they? Did no one condemn thee? ” “ No 
one , Lord.” “ Neither do I condemn thee; go; from now 
on do not sin any more." It is not a formal acquittal; 
it is a refusal to judge. He who so refuses is the only 
one who ever was without sin ; He alone was entitled 
to condemn; and He did not condemn. But neither 
did He condone. He said From now on do not sin 
any more. Perhaps that spiritual power which flashed 
His challenge into the consciences of the accusers 
carried this charge to the will of the sinful woman, so 
that, not condemned, she was purged. 

May it at least be so with us! May the Wrath of 
the Lamb against our combination of impurity and 
complacency quicken our slow consciences, and may 
His cleansing glance so penetrate us that from now on 
we do not sin any more ! 



i 


CHAPTER IX 

After the tense atmosphere of the controversy recorded 
in Chapters VII and VIII the Evangelist passes, with 
divine art, to a chapter of vivid movement, disclosing 
the spiritual outlook of those concerned with singular 
clearness, but not demanding specially close thought 
or deep meditation. Once more, as at the beginning 
of Chapter VII (see Westcott quoted ad loc.), we 
notice the qualities which only the narrative of an eye- 
witness would show. 

There is no note of date for the miracle recorded, 
but the ensuing controversy comes to a head during 
the Feast of Dedication (x, 22) and the whole story 
may fall within the period of that feast. As the con- 
troversy connected with the Feast of Israel as nation 
(the Feast of Tabernacles) led up to the Lord’s asser- 
tion of His priority to Abraham (viii, 58), so this, 
which is connected with the feast of Israel as Church 
(the Feast of Dedication) leads up to His assertion of 
His unity with the Father (x, 30). 

The Sign 

1-7. And passing by he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples 
asked him saying “ Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that 
he should be born blind? ” Jesus answered “ Neither did this man 
sin nor his parents; but it was for a manifestation of the works of 
God in him. I must work the works of him that sent me while it 
is day; there cometh night when no man can work. Whensoever 
I am in the world, I am light of the world.” Having said this he 
spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle, and smeared his 
clay on the eyes, and said to him “ Go, wash in the pool of Siloam ” 
(which means sent). He went away therefore, and washed, and 
came seeing. 


153 



154 READINGS IN ST, JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Blind from birth. It is said that St. John likes to 
heighten the miraculous element in his narrative. But 
if he does, it is not from any love of the marvellous. 
It is not the wonder, but the symbolism, of the acts 
of the Lord which he would emphasise. The works 
are for him not primarily miracles but signs. The 
man blind from birth is every man. For it is a part of 
that sin of the world which the Lamb of God beareth 
away (i, 29) that by nature we are blind, until our 
eyes are opened by Christ the Light of the world (viii, 
12; ix, 5). It is in bearing away that sin of the world 
that the Son is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 
The vitally important question is not Who is re- 
sponsible? — this man or his parents ? — but How can 
this fact be turned to the glory of God? All things 
exist for that glory; even sin, and every form of evil, 
is compelled to minister to that glory; and the op- 
portunity of glorifying God is the ultimate moral factor 
in every situation. 

The primitive and crude conception of divine 
justice, from which (in spite of The Book of Job) the 
Jews had not freed themselves, regards every calamity 
as a punishment for some sin. A man born blind thus 
presents a problem. Perhaps the sin was in his 
parents; but then we are involved in contradiction of 
Ezekiel. So the Rabbis invented the possibility of 
pre-natal sin to account for inherited defects. What 
will this Rabbi say? As usual He carries the matter 
to a new level of thought. Calamity and guilt are not 
thus adjusted in the world. But there is always the 
opportunity of glorifying God. What matters about 
this, man is not that he illustrates a theory of divine 
justice, nor even (which is the fact) that he contradicts 
it; but that a manifestation of the works of God may 
take place in him. 

The Lord must do such works while it is possible. 
He is come to do the works of God (v, 17, 19, 20); 
this must continue till His hour is come and His 



CHAPTER IX 155 

work is accomplished (xvii, 1, 4). For Him as for all 
men it is true that there cometh night , when no one can 
work . The manner of work now possible is possible 
only while life lasts. It is true, indeed, that His activity 
in the world is not limited to that channel. Whensoever 
1 am in the world , as agent of creation (i, 3), as coming 
to Prophets, I am light of the world. There is no 
emphasis here as in viii, 12 on the personal pronoun, 
and no definite article. Every manifestation of the 
divine word is illumination of the world; and that 
manifestation is all around us; but we are blind from 
birth and pay no heed, till He anoints our eyes. 

It is true that all creation manifests the Creator. 
“ The heavens declare the glory of God and the 
firmament sheweth his handiwork ” ( Psalm xix, 1). But 
we see all this awry until we have first learnt to see God 
in Jesus Christ. We cannot ascertain the character of 
God by induction from what He has done and is doing 
in nature and history. But when we have found it in 
Jesus Christ we can begin to trace it there also. As 
we look back we can see that the special revelation in 
Christ is the crown of the general revelation in nature 
and history; but if we start with this and look forward, 
we cannot even adumbrate that only true revelation. 

So the Lord turns to the blind man to heal him. 
He follows the current and, doubtless, well-founded 
belief that saliva has curative properties; and, in order 
to apply it, mingles it with dust, so making a sort of 
clay-ointment. There could be no objection to this 
on any other day; but this was a sabbath, and “ the 
application of spittle to the eyes, which was con- 
sidered very salutary, was expressly forbidden .by 
Jewish tradition on the sabbath ” (Westcott ad loci). 
The making of clay would be an additional offence. 

He anointed the sightless eyes, and told the man 
to wash in the Pool of Apostleship; and when he did 
this, he saw. The Father sent the Son; the Son sent 
His disciples. This Apostolic mission is the only 



156 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

source from which the darkness of the world can win 
light and sight. But of course this suggestion is given 
by the Evangelist’s note, calling attention to the mean- 
ing of the name Siloam: that name itself merely in- 
dicated the fact that the water was artificially brought 
to this pool, and had long ago become a proper name 
with no other meaning than to denote a particular pool. 

* 

The Effect on Neighbours 

8-13. The neighbours therefore, and those who noticed him before, 
that he was a beggar, began to say “ Is not this he who sits and begs?” 
Some were saying “ This is he others were saying u No, but 
he is like him He was saying “ I am (the man) So they began 
to say to him “ How then were thine eyes opened? ” He answered 
“ The man called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes and said 
to me ‘ Go to Siloam and wash \ So I went, and washed, and re- 
ceived sight.” And they said to him “ Where is he? ” He saith “ I 
do not know 

Little here calls for observation, except that the 
man uses, to end the discussion, the same words “ I 
am ”, which in the mouth of the Lord must suggest 
an assertion of Deity, without any sort of claim for 
himself. Thus we are reminded that when the Lord 
used those words they carried no necessary or overt 
claim, and it was possible to hear them without any 
thought of a further implication. 

“ Where is he?” “I do not know” So natural; 
and in a sense so terrible. We who have received 
sight in some measure are often asked, sometimes by 
implication, sometimes by direct challenge, from what 
source we gained it; and frequently we answer “ I do 
not know ” — either from cowardice, or from real 
ignorance. Not all men recognise their obligation to 
trace the source of the light by which they live. If 
they are heirs of a Christian tradition, they often 
ignore or even repudiate what is in fact the “ master- 
light of all their seeing And even if, in their hearts, 



CHAPTER IX 157 

they know the truth they are ashamed to confess it. 
Well for us if direct opposition and threat of persecu- 
tion matures our conviction and leads us to explicit 
confession of faith, as happened with the blind man 
whom the Lord had healed! 

* 

Examination of the Blind Man 

13-17. They bring him to the Pharisees — the man who had been 
blind. Now it was a sabbath that day on which Jesus made the 
clay and opened his eyes. So again the Pharisees also began to 
ask him how he received sight. And he said to them “ He put clay 
upon my eyes, and I washed myself, and I see Some of the 
Pharisees therefore began to say “This man is not from God, 
because he does not observe the sabbath ”. Others were saying 
“ How can a man that is a sinner do such signs? n And there was 
division among them. They say therefore to the blind man again 
“ What dost thou say of him, seeing that he opened thine eyes? ” 
And he said “ A prophet is he 

Probably the Pharisees here are not a casual collec- 
tion of them who happened to be available, but one 
of the two smaller courts, or Synagogue Councils, 
that existed in Jerusalem. They conduct a more or 
less formal examination, and end with a dismissal 
which, though short of formal excommunication, is 
more than an expression of personal annoyance. We 
notice how the man sticks to bare facts — always the 
real foundation of faith. He offers no interpretation 
till he is challenged. 

■■■'.■/A ; - 

The Examination of the Parents 

18-23. The Jews therefore refused to believe concerning him that 
he had been blind and had received sight, until they had called the 
parents of him that received sight. And they asked them saying 
“ Is tills your son, of whom ye say that he was born blind? How 
then does he now see? ” His parents therefore answered and said 
“ We know that this is our son, and that he was bom blind. But 
how he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do 



158 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

not know; ask him; he is of age; he will tell his own story.” His 
parents said this, because they feared the Jews; for already the Jews 
had agreed that if any one should confess him as Christ, he should 
be excommunicated. For this reason his parents said “ He is of age; 
ask him ”. 

The parents have not had the experience that has 
come to their son* They are frightened, and have 
nothing to put up against their fear. But the man 
himself has. And when he is challenged, he stands 
by his experience and is ready for the worst that his 
examiners can do rather than deny it. 

& 

Second Examination and Expulsion of the 
Bund Man 

24-34. So they called a second time the man who was blind, and 
said to him “ Give glory to God; we know that this man is a 
sinner ”. He therefore answered u Whether he is a sinner I know 
not; one thing I know, that being blind I now see So they said 
to him “What did he do to thee? How did he open thine 
eyes? ” He answered “ I told you already and ye did not listen; 
why do ye want to hear again? Surely ye do not wish to become 
his disciples? ” And they reviled him and said “ Thou art a disciple 
of that fellow, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God 
hath spoken to Moses, but this fellow — we do not know whence 
he is.” The man answered and said to them “Why, then, herein is 
the marvel, that ye do not know whence he is, and he hath opened 
mine eyes. We know that sinners God doth not hear; but if any 
man be devout and doeth his will, him he heareth. From the 
beginning of time it was unheard of that any one opened the eyes 
of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, he 
would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to 
him “ In sins wast thou born, all of thee; and dost thou teach us? ” 
And they drove him out. 

The pious phrase with which the Court now 
addresses the blind man is a formula of solemn adjura- 
tion. It does not mean, “ Give glory to God, and not 
to Jesus, for your sight ”, though that would have 
been appropriate enough. It merely means what may 
now be meant by the opening words of a solemn 



CHAPTER IX 


H 9 

announcement — “ In the Name of God, Amen 
The Court, which is a competent authority, has 
decided the matter, and calls on this former beggar 
to accept its decision — We know that this man is a 
sinner . That is a matter of opinion ; the beggar has a 
fact - — One thing I know. And that is the most im- 
portant thing for any believer to be able to say. It 
may be this thing; it may be that; but if there is one 
thing let a man hold to that. And whatever threatens, 
whatever high authority ecclesiastical or civil may have 
to say, let him for no consideration deny his own 
experience. 

The Pharisees ask to have the story over again. 
No doubt they hope to find some flaw in it. But he 
begins to mock at them; do they want to hear again 
and again till they become disciples? No, they say; 
Thou art a disciple of that fellow; we are Moses' disciples 
... (If ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for 
concerning me he wrote ; v, 46 — there is no such 
conflict of discipleships as is implied.) They know 
whence Moses derived his teaching, but they do not 
know what may be Jesus’ credentials. This goads the 
man to the conviction that Jesus is from God. Divine 
mission at least he will ascribe to Him. And now the 
Court falls back on the one thing it knows about him; 
he was born blind, doubtless because of his own sins 
or those of his parents (2); anyhow he came into the 
world bearing the mark of divine judgement and dis- 
favour. Such a man cannot be allowed to instruct the 
Court, and he is driven out with contumely. This is 
not excommunication, either that total severance from 
Israel which only the Sanhedrin could decree, or the 
suspension from the synagogue, which had been agreed 
on as the penalty for confessing Jesus as Christ (22); 
but it is a contemptuous expulsion from the Court, 
implying recalcitrance and alienation. 



160 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

The Welcome offered by Jesus 

35-38. Jesus heard that they drove him out, and found him and said 
“ Thou — dost thou believe on the Son of Man? ” He answered 
and said “ And who is he, Lord, that I may believe on him? ” 
Jesus said to him “ Both seen him hast thou, and he who is talking 
with thee is he”. And he answered “ I believe, Lord”; and 
worshipped him. 

The man who is driven out by the Pharisaic Court 
is not left to wander as an outcast. Jesus found him . 
The man did not find Jesus; Jesus found him. That 
is the deepest truth of Christian faith; Jesus found 
me. Our fellowship with Him is rooted in His 
compassion. 

For it is into His fellowship that He welcomes 
the blind beggar; and to do this, He offers Himself 
explicitly for the first time as an object of faith. Westcott 
sees here “ the beginning of the new Society ”. That 
presses the point too far. But it is true that here for 
the first time the Lord offers Himself as an object of 
faith, and does this as a way of receiving into His 
fellowship one who is alienated from another. 

The Son of Man is the title of the Messiah both as 
fulfilling the divine intention for humanity, and as 
reigning with divine glory. This man, who has con- 
fessed that Jesus is from God — will he go further and 
put his whole trust in the Son of Man? Yes, if he 
knows where to find Him. In other words, he trusts 
Jesus enough to put his trust where Jesus shall point 
him. Then Jesus points to Himself. Seen him hast 
thou. This man has not had time yet to see many 
people! The Son of Man is one of the few whom he 
has already seen; and is now talking with him. He 
said “ I believe , Lord and worshipped him . 

• 

The Judgement on the Pharisees 

39-41. And Jesus said “ Unto judgement into this world did I come, 
that the/ who see not may see, and they who see may become blind ”. 



CHAPTER IX 


161 

From among the Pharisees they who were with him heard, and said 
to him 44 Can it be that we are blind ? 99 Jesus said 44 If ye were 
blind ye would not have sin; but now ye say 4 We see your sin 
abideth 99 . 

Judgement was not the purpose of His coming 
(iii, 17); but was its inevitable result (iii, 19). It led 
to an opening of blind eyes; it led to a blinding of 
eyes that had seen. Some of the Court which had 
driven out the blind man, and doubtless knew that the 
Lord had received him, ask ironically whether they 
are to be classed among the blind. Of course they 
expect to be told that they are — “ blind guides ” (St. 
Matthew xxiii, 16). But, on the contrary, they are 
told that blindness would be an excuse; their claim to 
sight is their condemnation ; their sin stands. 

It is a crushing, overwhelming retort. Can we 
escape its impact? Only in one of two ways. Either 
we must confess our blindness and seek the opening 
of our eyes ; or else we must accept the light and walk 
by it. What we may not do, yet all strive to do, is to 
keep our eyes half-open and live by half the light. 
That kind of sight holds us to our sin and our sin to 
us. But the only way of avoiding it is to look with 
eyes wide open upon ourselves and the world as the full 
light reveals it; but this is the surrender of faith, and 
pride resists it. 



■ CHAPTER X 

We must picture the Pharisees who have received that 
crushing retort (ix, 41) as reduced to silence, till 
strange language about the laying down of life in 
obedience to divine commands stimulates them to 
further protest (x, 18, 19). A man has been driven 
from one fold and received into another. After a 
solemn and awestruck silence the Lord speaks again. 

1-6. “Amen, Amen, I say to you, lie that entereth not through the 
door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up by some other way, 
he is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth through the door 
is shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper openeth, and the 
‘sheep hear his voice, and his own sheep he calleth by name and 
leadeth them out. When he hath put out all his own, he goeth 
before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his 
voice. But a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, 
because they do not know the voice of strangers.” This parable 
spake Jesus to them, but they perceived not what things they were 
which he was saying to them. 

The fold of the sheep was the courtyard in front of 
the house, where the sheep were brought for the night. 
The only alternative to entry by the door was by 
climbing over the walls. No one will enter that way 
except one who has no business there, and is therefore 
presumably come to steal. The man who openly comes 
by the door is a man entitled to enter — a shepherd. 
The door-keeper will know him and open to him. 
There may be sheep from several flocks gathered for 
the night; each shepherd will call his own sheep by 
name, and his own will recognise his voice and follow 
him. They will not follow a stranger, because his 
voice is unfamiliar. When a shepherd has brought out 
all his own sheep, he leads them to pasture. 

It was a parable, and they did not understand it. 
He goes on to explain it as giving a double interpreta- 

162 



CHAPTER X 163 

tion of His mission. He is both the Door (7-10) and the 
Shepherd (11-16). 

* 

7-10. Jesus therefore said to them again “Amen, Amen, I say to you, 
I am the door of the sheep. All that came before me are thieves 
and robbers. But the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; 
through me if any man enter, he shall be kept safe, and shall go in 
and go out and shall find pasture. The thief cometh not but for to 
steal and to kill and to destroy. I came that they may have life 
and may have it abundantly. ” 

I am the door of the sheep — the door through which 
both sheep and shepherd go in and out. The sheep 
must come into the fold — the Church — through the 
Door. They must not come for convention or respecta- 
bility or for any other reason than trust in Christ. If 
they come so they will be kept safe ; they will go in and 
go out and shall find pasture . Their pasture is outside, in 
the world. Clergy often forget this. Here is the root 
of the difference between clerical and lay religion. The 
layman finds in religion the strength for doing in a 
Christian spirit work which unbelievers also do. The 
priest’s work is religion; he is being in the special 
sense “ religious ” all the time. He does not go out 
to find pasture. Hence he lays upon devotional observ- 
ance a stress which seems to many laymen dispropor- 
tionate; but also, because for him religion is his daily 
work, he sometimes slips into speaking of it in a way 
which to the layman seems casual and irreverent. One 
of our chief needs is a clear recognition of the proper 
difference between the religion of the layman and of 
the cleric. Then we may reach the point where the 
priest will stand for the things of God before the 
laity — - who seek the help that a religious specialist 
can give them, while the laity stand for the things of 
God before the world — which will pay more heed 
to them than to shepherds who are (incidentally) 
hirelings (12). 

But the Lord is more concerned with the use of 



1 64 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

the door by the shepherd than by the sheep. There is 
no question of sheep climbing over the walls, so that 
part of the contrast concerns only shepherds and 
thieves. The rightful entrant is, therefore, the true 
pastor; the wrongful entrant is the false pastor. 

The pastoral office, like all other offices in the 
Church, is a focalisation, so to speak, of a function of 
the whole Church and all its members. We all exercise 
influence; that is a natural fact. If we are Christians, 
our influence is qualified by that consideration, and 
will draw men nearer to Christ or drive them further 
from Him, according to the balance of attractive or 
repellent qualities in ourselves. Our first question 
must be — how can we be sure that it draws men 
nearer? And the answer is that our entry to the lives 
of our neighbours must be through the door. But not 
only are we possessed by nature of the power of 
influence; we are responsible for exercising it to the 
uttermost. We are called to be Christ’s witnesses. 
But by what right do we dare to attempt the direction 
of a neighbour’s life, or even of a child’s? And again 
the answer is that we approach him through the door. 

I have no right to call men to adopt my traditions 
or to follow my manner of life. But I may call them 
to accept the Truth and to follow the Way which is 
Life. The ordinary way of saying this is to insist that 
we can only be the agents of God’s work so far as God 
is Himself acting through us. But how are we to 
ensure this? We so easily assume that what seems to 
us good must be the will of God. We make our plans 
for the work of God, and ask Him to prosper them. 
But they may be seriously infected with our prejudice, 
ignorance and short-sightedness. In particular, we can 
never see in advance that the way to final success lies 
through immediate failure; yet God may know that 
this is so; it is the way of the Cross. How are we to 
avoid putting self as an obstacle in the way of God’s 
purpose as we offer it to be the agency of that purpose? 



CHAPTER X 


165 


Again — by coming through the door . 

The meaning becomes clearer if we consider the 
alternatives. We may come to our pastoral work, the 
exercise of influence, through love of power and the 
satisfaction which we derive from guiding others; or 
through love of fame and repute (v, 44); or through 
partisanship, and the desire to win adherents for our 
own “ school of thought But none of these entitles 
us to exercise deliberate influence over another. A 
man who attempts it, is a thief and a robher. He is not 
merely an intruder; he is usurping functions to which 
he has no right. Nothing can give me warrant for the 
sacred responsibility of deliberately influencing a soul 
except that I approach that soul through the door, which 
is Christ. 

All that came before me are thieves and robbers . The 
word came is, of course, technical, as in the phrase “ he 
that cometh — the coming one” (St. Matthew xi, 3; 
St. Luke vii, 1 9). There had been false Messiahs. To 
claim Messiahship is the extreme form of the usurpa- 
tion of which all are guilty who accept the position of 
pastors otherwise than through Christ. 

To come to it through the door means at least three 
things: (1) to come to the task, and every part of it, 
in prayer; (2) to refer all activities to the standard of 
the Mind of Christ; (3) to accept what actually happens 
as nearer to the Will of God than our own success 
would have been. It means putting Christ in the fore- 
front of thought and self, in all its forms, right out of 
the picture. 

And Christ Himself comes “ not to be ministered 
unto, but to minister ” (St. Mark x, 45). He comes, 
not for His own sake, still less to make profit out of 
the sheep, but that they may have life and have it 
abundantly. ; with which we pass from the thought of 
Him as the Door, to the thought of Him as the 
Shepherd. 



1 66 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

i i~i6. I am the shepherd, the beautiful one. The shepherd, the 
beautiful one, lays down his life for the sheep. The hireling, not 
being withal a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, noticeth 
the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and fleeth — and the wolf 
snatches them and scatters them — because 'he is an hireling and 
careth not for the sheep. I am the shepherd, the beautiful one, 
and I know mine own and mine know me (as the Father knoweth 
me and I know the Father) and I lay down my life for the sheep. 
And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I 
must bring, and they shall hear my voice and there shall come to 
be one flock, one shepherd. 

The shepherd \ the beautiful one . Of course this 
translation exaggerates. But it is important that the 
word for “ good ” here is one that represents, not the 
moral rectitude of goodness, nor its austerity, but its 
attractiveness. We must not forget that our vocation 
is so to practise virtue that men are won to it; it is 
possible to be morally upright repulsively! In the 
Lord Jesus we see “ the beauty of holiness ” ( Psalm 
xcvi, 9). He was “ good ” in such manner as to draw 
all men to Himself (xii, 32). And this beauty of good- 
ness is supremely seen in the act by which He would 
so draw them, wherein He lays down his life for the 
sheep . The function of the shepherd is to care for the 
sheep, and to do and bear whatever is required by that 
care; the perfect shepherd faces death itself for the 
sheep. If the man who holds the office exercises it 
for the sake of his pay and not for the sake of the sheep, 
he is a hireling and not withal a shepherd . Of course a 
man may be a shepherd at heart, and also a hireling in 
the sense that he is paid for his work. Many hired 
shepherds are true shepherds. The test comes when 
he has to choose between his own interest and that of 
the flock. If he then follows his own interest and not 
that of the sheep, this shows that he is there for what 
he can earn and not for the service he can give. 

Readers of Plato will remember how Socrates, in 
the First Book of the Republic , insists on the difference 
between the true artist (not only in the fine arts) who 



CHAPTER X 167 

practises his art — e.g. medicine — for the sake of its 
true object (in the case of medicine, health), and one 
who practises it “ as a money-maker ”. That the 
doctor should in fact earn his fee is right enough; but 
the earning of the fee must not be the directing motive 
of his practice (Republic, 341 c— 346 d). 

So the shepherd — the pastor — may rightly be paid 
for his service. He must be kept alive, or he cannot tend 
the flock. But his dominant motive must be care of the 
flock ; and nothing must ever take precedence of that. 

The true shepherd not only cares for the sheep with 
a devotion even to the death; but he knows them and 
is known by them. This is the secret of all true 
pastoral work ; it is achieved through personal acquaint- 
ance. The shepherd calleth his own sheep by name (3); 
he knows their qualities; he can pray for each intelli- 
gently; he can offer appropriate guidance. And the 
sheep hear his voice (3) — something in them responds 
to the call which his knowledge of them enables him 
to utter so as to reach their souls. The best preaching 
is a fruit of constant pastoral visiting; it springs out 
of the relationship between pastor and people. But 
only his own will hear and answer. Some belong to 
other shepherds — perhaps (as he is but one among 
many) they will call and be heard. But when the 
Shepherd , the Beautiful one , calls and is not heeded, 
that is because of some deep defect in those who are 
addressed: Why do ye not recognise my speech ? even 
because ye cannot hear my word (viii, 43). 

It is by knowing us that men are to be saved! 
Then of what sort must we be? It is not by what we 
say that we are good pastors, nor by what we do ; but 
by what we are. And we are poor sheep like those 
whom we would tend. The one hope is that as folk 
come to know us they find in fact another — not the 
sheep turned shepherd, but in truth the Shepherd the 
Beautiful one. It will be so if we abide in Him and 
He in us (xv, 4) — not otherwise. 



1 68 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

But this mediatorial status is that also of the Good 
Shepherd Himself. I know mine own and mine know 
me as the Father knoweth me and I know the Father. 
Once again the analogy is introduced; the Father : the 
Son :: the Son : ourselves. Always it is in virtue of 
what is not the self, but acts or speaks through the 
self, that any, even the Lord Himself, is a minister of 
salvation. We recall again i, 14. 

And I lay down my life for the sheep. There is no 
limit to His care for the sheep; no sacrifice is too 
great for them. But the thought of sacrifice recalls 
that of the other sheep , the Gentile world, just as in 
xii, 20-25 the approach of the first fruits of that world 
will turn His mind to sacrifice. The two are joined 
together; for the universality of His appeal is due to 
His death (xii, 32). We saw above that in any one 
courtyard-fold there might be sheep from several 
flocks; in like manner, there might be sheep from one 
flock in several folds. To every fold the Shepherd must 
go and call His own sheep by name ; and they that are 
His own will hear and follow; so He will reconstitute 
His one flock under the care of the one Shepherd (cf. 
Ezekiel xxxiv, 23). 

* 

17-21. “ For this cause the Father loveth me — that I lay down my 
life, in order that I again may take it. No one took it away from 
me, but I lay it down of myself. I have authority to lay it down and 
I have authority again to take it. This commandment I received 
from my Father.” 

A division again arose among the Jews because of these sayings. Many 
of them were saying “ He hath a demon and is mad; why do ye 
listen to him? ” Others were saying “ These are not the words of 
one possessed by a demon; can a demon open the eyes of the blind? ” 

The love of the Father for the Son is based on the 
self-giving quality of the Son, while this in turn is 
grounded in the love of the Father. Love is like that. 
Each partner loves because the other is lovable, and is 
lovable because loved by the other. Nothing in these 



CHAPTER X 


169 

words is incompatible with the great assertions of the 
priority of the Father in v, 19, 20, 26. For while the 
self-giving of Christ is a perfectly free act — I lay it 
down of myself ■ — yet this is done under a conferred 
authority. (The translation “ power ” here, in i, 12, in 
St. Matthew xxviii, 18 and in Acts i, 7 — where it is 
actually contrasted with “ power ” in verse 8 — is one 
of the worst blemishes of the Authorised Version.) His 
freedom to offer His life is a gift from the Father; 
and the Father gave a commandment how that gift of 
freedom was to be used. The sacrifice of the Son is no 
less free, and is more, not less, meritorious, for being 
an act of obedience. “ He humbled himself, becoming 
obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. 
Wherefore also God highly exalted him ” ( Philippians 
ii, 8, 9; cf. Hebrews x, 8-10). 

But He lays down His life that He again may take 
it. His Death is not a defeat cancelled by the Resur- 
rection triumph. It is itself triumphant, and the 
passage to a fuller vitality than was compatible with the 
limitations of the earthly ministry — “I have a baptism 
to be baptized with ; and how am I straitened till it be 
accomplished! ” (St. Luke xii, 50). “ The Resurrec- 

tion (of Jesus Christ) has made possible for Christians 
a new interpretation of the facts of death and mortality. 
. . . Death becomes not a mere gateway to be passed 
through, nor the mere casting away of a perishable 
body, but a loss which is turned into gain, a giving 
up of life which is made the means whereby that life 
is received back again renewed, transfigured, and ful- 
filled” (Doctrine in the Church of England , p. 85). 

No one took it away from me: the reference is not 
directly to the Crucifixion but to the whole act of 
Incarnation with all its implications. The self-giving 
of Christ is an eternal action; to give Himself is His 
very nature; it is not imposed on Him from without, 
but springs from His own inner being. This self- 
giving is the ground of His actual submission to 



170 READINGS IN ST, JOHN’S GOSPEL 

death, when, in a superficial sense, many persons took 
away His life — Caiaphas, Pilate, the soldiers. But 
His consent was the prior condition of their action (cf. 
St . Matthew xxvi, 53, 54). Those enemies of His were 
after all the agents of His own purpose. 

* 

This language about laying down life under a 
command from the Father divides His hearers. The 
more hostile think it the expression of a fanatical 
lunatic, who might suppose that God required His 
suicide as an act of self-immolation. Others remem- 
bered the blind man, out of whose recovery of sight the 
whole controversy had arisen. There was a crowd in 
the Temple, assembled for the feast, so they gathered 
round and demanded a plain answer to a plain question. 
Crowds are given to that demand ! 

22-31. At that time took place the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem; 
it was winter; and Jesus was walking in the Temple in Solomon’s 
porch. The Jews therefore surrounded him and began to say to 
him “ How long dost thou hold us in suspense? If thou art the 
Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them “ I told you, and ye 
do not believe. The works which I do in my Father’s name these 
bear witness concerning me. But ye do not believe, because ye are 
not of the sheep that are mine. The sheep that are mine hear my 
voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give to them 
eternal life, and they shall not perish unto eternity, and no one shall 
snatch them out of my hand. My Father who gave them to me 
is greater than all, and no one can snatch from the hand of the 
Father. I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews fetched stones 
that they might stone him. 

While the controversy is still raging, the Feast of 
Dedication came on. It “ was instituted by Judas 
Maccabaeus to commemorate the purification of the 
Temple from the pollutions of Antiochus Epiphanes 
by the dedication of a new altar (/. Macc. iv, 36, 59; 
II. Macc. x, 5, 6), and was kept at the winter solstice 
(Chislev 25) ” (Bernard ad l oc The crowd gathers 
round the Lord, and its leaders demand a plain state- 



CHAPTER X 


171 

ment. They introduce it with a play upon words 
intended to throw contempt on His own expression. 
He had said that “ no one took away His life, or 
soul ”, and they use the same terms; “ How long 
dost thou take our soul? ” — a phrase for holding 
people in breathless suspense. 

If thou art the Christy tell us ■plainly. How could 
He? He was indeed the Christ, and had avowed this 
to the Woman of Samaria (iv, 2.6), and in very slightly 
veiled terms to the man born blind (ix, 35). But if 
He tells these controversialists that He is the Christ, 
either they will suppose Him to offer Himself as what 
they suppose the Christ to be, or else they will start 
asking Him which of the anticipations He will fulfil. 
To say either Yes or No is equally misleading. He 
had abandoned all the extant anticipations in the three- 
fold Messianic Temptations immediately after His 
Baptism {St. Luke iv, 1-12; St. Matthew iv, 1-11). 
And the new type of Messiahship which He has 
adopted — “the Son of Man must suffer” {St. Mark 
viii, 31) — could only be spoken with hope of under- 
standing to the chosen disciples, and could not be 
received even by them ; but at least it did not make 
them scoff or turn away. 

And yet the answer to the question had been given 
many times in terms which could have conveyed it to 
their minds if they had only been schooled by their 
own teachers (v, 46). And His works — those 
signs in which power is subordinate to love — are 
evidence. But they cannot hear the evidence, however 
clear it be. They are not of the sheep that are mine . 
They cannot hear His word (viii, 43). To them He 
is a stranger. But as He is the one true Shepherd this 
is their condemnation. His own sheep hear, and 
follow and are safe. They shall not perish unto eternity. 
They may suffer loss, tribulation, death in this world; 
but at the last they will be found still safe. For they 
are in the hand of the Shepherd. 



172 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

No one shall snatch them out of my hand. The word 
“ snatch ” is the same that was used of the wolf who 
attacks the flock. If we are truly committed to Christ, 
no assault can tear us from Him. “ Shall tribulation, 
or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, 
or peril, or sword? ... Neither death, nor life, nor 
angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor 
things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, 
nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us 
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our 
Lord ” ( Romans viii, 35, 38, 39). 

This is implicitly, as is the invitation “ Come unto 
me . . . and I will give you rest ” (St. Matthew xi, 
28), a claim to divine status; and this is now made 
explicit. The reason why He can confidently say that 
none can snatch from His hands is that this is certainly 
true concerning the Father; and what is true of Him 
is true of the Son; for I and the Father are one. 

He has not given a plain answer to the plain 
question. That was impossible. But He has made a 
very plain statement — not indeed that it necessarily 
carries all that we tend to read into it in the light of 
our Christian faith and experience; the justification 
of it which follows rules that out. But it is a stupendous 
affirmation of union with the Deity. As at the national 
feast He asserted His priority to the founder of the 
nation, so at this Church feast He asserts His union 
with the God to whom the worship of the Church 
is offered. 

We must not read into such an utterance the solu- 
tion of theological riddles which only the development 
of Christian thought and experience prompted men to 
ask. But it is quite right to note the precise terms 
used, for these are governed by an instinctive sense of 
appropriateness which points towards a more developed 
apprehension. So the famous saying is not wholly 
illegitimate “Per sumus refutatur Sabellius, per unum 
Arius ”, though “ refutation ” is too definitive a word 



CHAPTER X 173 

for what may properly be deduced from the Lord’s 
declaration. 

This claim was blasphemy if it was not true. So 
much the Jews saw, and made ready again (cf. viii, 59) 
to stone the Lord as a blasphemer. But there is 
another consideration. The claim is ridiculous if it is 
not true. The fact that no one ever felt an inclination 
to laugh at it is very strong evidence of its truth. 

But it is not an assertion of all that Christians 
believe concerning their Lord; it is not as though He 
had said “ I am God for see how He justifies it. 

& 

32-39. Jesus answered them u Many works I shewed you, beautiful 
wmrks from the Father. For what kind of work among these do 
ye stone me? ” The Jews answered Him “ Not in connexion with 
a beautiful work do we stone thee, but in connexion with blasphemy, 
and because thou, being man, makest thyself God Jesus answered 
them, “ Is it not written in your law ‘ I said. Ye are gods’. If 
he called them gods to whom the word of God came, and the 
scripture cannot be broken, do ye say of him whom the Father 
hallowed and sent into the world 4 Thou blasphemest 9 because I 
said 4 1 am Son of God If I do not the works of my Father, do 
not believe me; but if I do, even though ye do not believe me, 
believe the works, that ye may perceive and know that the Father 
is in me and I in the Father.” They sought therefore again to 
arrest him, but he went forth out of their hand. 

As they prepare to stone Him the Lord diverts 
their attention from His words to His deeds, of which 
the giving of sight to the man born blind was the last. 
They are deeds that display the very goodness of God — 
power used for love’s purpose. But the Jews fasten 
on the saying. He is plainly a man and he claims to 
be God; that is undoubted blasphemy. But is it? 
The Psalmist ( Psalm Ixxxii) had attributed divinity to 
those who held office as judges by divine appointment. 
Here is One whom the Father hallowed for His work 
and sent into the world; the same principle applies. 
Thus the Lord suggests that His union with the Father 



174 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

is no more than the perfect form of a relationship open 
to others and in a certain measure achieved by some; 
what He has claimed in the phrase censured by the 
Jews is not necessarily anything unique. It is the 
perfect Sonship. But there is implied an acceptance 
of, and emphasis upon, an element of teaching present 
in the Old Testament, but not prominent there, which 
finds some real divinity in human life and action; and 
this is now brought to the fore. For the complete 
contrast between God and Man characteristic of Jewish 
orthodoxy, affords no basis for a doctrine of Divine 
Incarnation. Moreover, while the Lord makes it clear 
that He is not asserting a unique position for Himself, 
neither is He denying it. For the refutation of the 
charge it is enough to shew that it was not asserted. 
The Jews are checked; they do not cast their stones; 
and their attempt to make an arrest is so half-hearted 
that the Lord can make His departure. 

* 

40-42. And he went away again beyond Jordan into the place where 
John was at first baptising, and abode there. And many came to 
Him and began to say “ John worked no sign, but all things that 
John said of this man were true. And many believed on him there.” 

The controversies must have strained the faith of 
many who had committed themselves to faith in the 
Lord. Others have been set wondering. He says 
nothing to reassure or to win. But He goes to a place 
connected with the beginning of the whole amazing 
series of events; and the place with its memories and 
its associations does its work. They go over the story 
together, and its coherence begins to be apparent, with 
the Lord as One on whom all the evidence converges. 
And there , under those influences, many believed on him . 



CHAPTER XI 


[We come now to the seventh, last and greatest of 
the signs — though it is noticeable that the first had 
already manifested creative powers. The story of the 
raising of Lazarus is a notorious problem for critics. 
The question for them is not “ Could it have hap- 
pened? ” but “ If it happened, how did it come about 
that St. Mark omitted it? ” It is important that this 
is the form of the question. The narrative framework 
of the first Gospel is purely Marcan, and the negative 
evidence of the two first Gospels is no weightier than 
that of the second alone. St. Luke had an independent 
source, and may even have made a first draft of 
his Gospel from this and “ Q ” before he became 
acquainted with Mark, which he then fitted into his 
own scheme. So the absence of this story from Luke 
is a more serious consideration than its absence from 
Matthew , because it shews that it was absent from St. 
Luke’s special source as well as from Mark. But that 
special source seems to have been even more a collec- 
tion of episodes and even less a coherent narrative 
than Mark ; for Mark has a coherent scheme, though 
not a chronology. We may therefore say that the 
difference to be adjusted is between John and Mark 
only. But it is a serious difference. For the Marcan 
scheme, which omits the raising of Lazarus, treats the 
cleansing of the Temple as the occasion for the inter- 
vention of the High Priests and the Sadducees — 
which is very intelligible, for in that act the Lord had 
challenged their financial interests. In the Johannine 
scheme the cleansing of the Temple takes place at the 
outset of the Ministry, and it is the raising of Lazarus 
which brings in the High Priests. 

It is contrary to the design of this book to argue 

175 N 



17 6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

such points, and I state only my own conclusions. 
I accept the Johannine narrative as correct, and I 
account for the Marcan divergence from it as follows. 
St. Mark was recording his impression of the course 
of the ministry which he derived from constantly hear- 
ing St. Peter preach the Gospel and acting as his 
interpreter. Such preaching would not provide a 
chronology of the ministry; but it would concentrate 
upon the events of the last week, containing the 
Triumphal Entry, the Last Supper, the Trial, the 
Crucifixion, the Resurrection. Various stories from 
the earlier period would be told, including the cleansing 
of the Temple. These St. Mark arranged in a coherent 
order — and one which, as Burkitt shewed, had far 
more than guess-work behind it; it has substantial 
accuracy ; but it only had occasion to record one — 
the last — visit to Jerusalem; so the cleansing of the 
Temple was inserted there, and the indignation, which 
it assuredly caused whenever it took place, was treated 
as the occasion for the intervention of the High Priests, 
which assuredly took place at that time. If the cleansing 
had taken place earlier it would still be remembered as 
a “ count ” against the disturber of the peace. . 

St. Peter may have had no positive reason to dwell 
in his preaching on the raising of Lazarus ; he cared 
more for episodes connected with his Galilean home, 
and did (apparently) tell the story of Jairus’ daughter. 
It is noteworthy that as the Marcan narrative omits 
the ministry in Jerusalem before the last week, so there 
is no mention of St. Peter in the whole of Part II of 
this Gospel (V, VII-XII). It is probable that he re- 
mained in Galilee, coming up for the last Passover 
in time to take part in the Triumphal Entry. If so, 
he said nothing about the raising of Lazarus because 
he had not himself seen it; he may also have had 
some reason for omitting the story, for if Lazarus was 
still alive, to tell his story in public preaching might 
cause him grave inconvenience, if not ridicule and 



CHAPTER XI 


177 

persecution. Of course all this is mere conjecture, and 
by no means satisfactory. All I contend is that the 
origins of Mark are such that the omission of this story 
there is not at all decisive; and to accept, as I do, the 
Johannine narrative is in no way false to. the principles 
of evidence. The story is singularly vivid and has all 
the characteristics of the record of an eye-witness. For 
its undoubtedly miraculous character see p. 75.] 

« 

Some period must be supposed to pass while the 
Lord consolidates the faith of His disciples beyond 
Jordan, away from the scene of controversy. There 
the messenger from Martha and Mary reaches Him. 

1-6. Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, sprung from 
the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (Now Mary was she 
that anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her 
hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) The sisters therefore sent 
unto him saying 44 Lord, behold he whom thou lovest is sick ”. 
But when Jesus heard it he said 44 This sickness is not unto death 
but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified 
by its means (Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and 
Lazarus.) When therefore he heard that he was sick, then he 
abode in the place where he was for two days. 

Of Bethany — sprung from the village of Mary and 
her sister Martha . Probably that village was in Galilee, 
for the episode recorded in St. Luke x, 38-42 seems 
there to be placed in Galilee. If so, it is the more 
possible that Mary is the woman also mentioned in 
St. Luke vii, 36-50, as is certainly here implied. 
Perhaps that episode was the beginning of the Lord’s 
intimacy with this family. W e notice that Mary is 
here named first, as the better known. Anyhow, they 
are all now at Bethany, whether they have removed 
there altogether or had a house there for business in 
the capital as well as their home in Galilee. And 
Lazarus is sick. So the sisters send to tell the Lord. 
It is evident that they expect Him to come at once, 



178 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

partly (no doubt) to see His friend before he dies, 
partly in hope that His presence may prevent death 
from occurring (21, 32). But the Lord does not 
hasten to Bethany; on the contrary He seems deliber- 
ately to delay. He says that this sickness is not unto 
death , but for the glory of God ; so far it resembles the 
congenital blindness of the man whose story is given 
in Chapter . IX (see ix, 3). But here the addition is 
made, that the Son of God may be glorified by its means. 
In one sense the sickness of Lazarus was unto death ; 
it was sickness of that quality, and in fact he died of it. 
But that was not its final issue. It and the death in 
which it culminated were both for the glory of God as 
manifested in the restoration of Lazarus to life; and 
this glory of God took the form of the glorifying of the 
Son, who was disclosed as the Lord and Conqueror 
of death. But to that end death must first occur. 
So before recording the apparent indifference of the 
Lord, the Evangelist inserts the note assuring us of 
His love for the two sisters. That, however, is a 
parenthesis; in order that the divine purpose in 
Lazarus’ illness might be fully realised, the Lord 
abode two days where He was. Perhaps if He had 
started at once He would have arrived just in time to 
fulfil the sisters’ hope; but Lazarus must have died 
very soon after the message reached the Lord and His 
disciples, if not before; as it was, He brought them 
something beyond all their hopes. 

* 

7-16. Then after this he saith to the disciples “ Let us go into Judaea 
again The disciples say to Him “ Rabbi, but now the Jews were 
seeking to stone thee, and again gocst thou there? ” Jesus answered 
“ Are there not twelve hours of the day? If any man walk in the 
day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world; 
but if any man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light 
is not in him.” This he said, and after this he saith to them 
“ Lazarus our friend hath fallen asleep; but I go that I may awake 
him ”. The disciples therefore said to him, “ Lord, if he hath 



CHAPTER XI 


179 

fallen asleep, he will recover But Jesus had spoken of his death; 
but they thought that he was speaking of taking rest in sleep. At 
this point therefore Jesus said to them plainly “ Lazarus died; and 
I rejoice, for your sakes that I was not there, that ye may believe; 
but let us go to him ”. Thomas therefore, the one called the Twin, 
said to his fellow-disciples “ Let us also go, that we may die with 
him”. 

The Lord does not at first say that He is going 
to Bethany, but names only Judaea. The disciples 
naturally think of its perils — But now (x, 31, 39) the 
Jews were seeking to stone thee , and again goest thou 
there? The answer is a reply to their fears. His day 
has not yet run its course. But He so expresses this 
as to convey a deeper meaning. He refers to daylight 
as the light of this world ; but He has already described 
Himself as the light of the world (viii, 1 2). As he that 
walks in daylight is secure against stumbling over 
obstacles, so he that walks by the light of the world is 
secure against spiritual accidents. The disciples need 
not fear to go into Judaea with their Master because, 
first, He still has some time before the appointed hour 
of His death, and, secondly, to be with Him is always 
to be in the light; and to be away from Him is to be 
in darkness and stumble — because the light is not in 
him. For Christ the Light of the World shines first 
upon the soul, and then from within the soul upon the 
path of life. He does not illumine our way while 
leaving us unconverted; but by converting us He 
illumines our way. “We all, with unveiled face re- 
flecting in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are trans- 
formed into the same image.” It is “ in our hearts ” 
that God hath “ shined ... to give the light of the 
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus 
Christ ” (II Corinthians iii, 18; iv, 6). 

Then the Lord begins to explain the motive of His 
return to Judaea. . Lazarus , our friend , hath fallen 
asleep. The disciples later will use this beautiful ex- 
pression for death as Christians understand it (Acts 
vii, 60; I Thessalonians iv, 13, 14). It was not an 



i8o READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

altogether new use of the word; but it was natural that 
the disciples should take it literally. Then He speaks 
quite plainly; Lazarus died. And for the disciples’ 
sake He rejoices that He was not there to save him 
from death; for now He can act in a way that will 
strengthen their faith : that ye may believe. 

Did they not believe already? Yes, most truly but 
also precariously. Their faith is not very firm yet; 
they will all forsake Him and Peter will deny Him. 
They have faith; but compared to that which is to-be 
theirs later, it is as though they had not yet entered on 
the life of faith. 

It is hard to know what one’s faith is worth till 
some severe test comes. I believe — in some measure; 
of that I am quite sure. But in what measure I do not 
know. I pray God to do for me, or to me, or in me, 
whatever will have the result that I may believe. 

But let us go to him. No more talk about it: action 
now. This calls from Thomas the expression of that 
faith which was deeply real, yet as deeply needed con- 
firmation (xx, 29). Thomas is literal, prosaic, tending 
to see the gloomy side of things in his sincere resolve to 
face realities; and he is utterly loyal: let us also go that 
we may die with him. 

* 

17-27. So Jesus when he came found that he had been four days 
already in the tomb. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about 
fifteen furlongs off. And many of the Jews had come to Martha 
and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother. So Martha, 
when she heard that “ Jesus cometh ”, went to meet him; but Mary 
was sitting in the house. Martha therefore said to Jesus “ Lord, if 
thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Even now I know 
that whatsoever thou shalt ask of God, God will give it thee.” 
Jesus saith to her “Thy brother shall rise again”. Martha saith 
- to him “ I know that he shall rise again at the resurrection at the 
last day”. Jesus saith to her “ I am the resurrection and the life; 
he that believeth on me, even though he die, shall live, and every 
one that liveth and believeth on me shall not die to eternity; be- 
lievest thou this? ” She saith to him “ Yea, Lord, I have believed 



CHAPTER XI 181 

that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, he that cometh into the 

world 

When the Lord arrives, the time of bereavement is 
already running its course. It is more than three days 
since Lazarus died; friends from Jerusalem are coming 
out to offer consolation. Then the message is brought 
to Martha, as elder sister and mistress of the house — ■ 
Jesus cometh. She goes to meet Him, and this takes 
her beyond the limits of the village (30). When she 
reaches Him she says the words that have so often 
been on her lips and her sister’s concerning Him: 
Lord, if thou hadst been here , my brother had not died. 
No doubt they had often said this to one another during 
those sad three days; and now each says it as almost 
a greeting to the Lord (21, 32). It is an expression 
both of affection and of faith — with a touch of sadness 
that their message had not brought Him sooner. But 
faith predominates. She has no actual petition, and 
does not urge the Lord to make one ; she only knows 
that whatever He may ask will be done by God. He 
does not now or later offer a spoken prayer; but later 
He thanks the Father for hearing Him, so that we 
know He was all the time praying in His heart (41). 
Now He leads her on to a fuller faith in Himself. 
He starts with a promise, in words which admit of 
fulfilment either at once or in an undefined future: 
thy brother shall rise again. Martha has already ac- 
cepted this article of Pharisaic faith at least so far 
as it refers to a general resurrection at the last day. 
But that is remote, and she finds little comfort in it. 
The answer is startling. I am — the words of Divine 
self-declaration — the Resurrection and the Life. How 
can He actually be the Resurrection? He might be its 
cause, its donor, its controller; how can He be a future 
event? Of course there is a forcing of language to 
express an unutterable thought. But we can put part 
of what it means in other words. Fellowship with 
Christ is participation in the divine life which finds its 



1 82 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

fullest expression in triumph over death. Life is a 
larger word than Resurrection ; but Resurrection is, 
so to speak, the crucial quality of Life, and the in- 
clusion of it therefore adds vastly to the effectiveness, 
though not to the actual content, of the saying. There 
is no denial of a general resurrection at the last day; 
but there is an insistence that for those who are in 
fellowship with Jesus the life to which that resurrection 
leads is already present fact. “ If a man believe in 
Him, although his body dies his true self shall live 
(25); or, as it may be .put in other words, no believer 
in Jesus shall ever die, so far as his spirit is concerned. 
‘ Your friend is alive now; for in me he touched the 
life of God which is eternal; in me, he had already 
risen before his body perished.’ This is the Johannine 
doctrine of life; it is also the doctrine of Paul (cf. 
Col. iii, 1).” 1 

Martha is puzzled. When asked if she can accept 
this she falls back on faith in Christ, not saying she 
accepts what has been said, but accepting Him and 
therefore, for His sake, whatever He may say. Her 
confession is the most complete yet made by any. But 
it is not a new faith; it is an old faith come to fuller 
consciousness : I have believed that thou art the Christ , 
the Son of God , he that someth into the world. 

* 

28-32. Having said this she went away and called Mary her sister 
secretly, saying, “ The Master is here and calleth thee ”. And she, 
when she heard, arose quickly and began to go to him. Now Jesus was 
not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha 
met him. The Jews therefore which were with her in the house 
and were comforting her, seeing that Mary rose up quickly and 
went out, followed her supposing that she was going to the tomb 
to weep there. Mary, therefore, when she came where Jesus was,, 
seeing him fell at his feet saying to him, “ Lord, if thou hadst beer, 
here my brother had not died ”. 


1 Bernard ad toe. 



CHAPTER XI 


183 

After her confession of faith, Martha returns to 
give the good news of the Master’s coming to Mary. 
This less practical but more emotionally affectionate 
sister is still sitting in the house (20) among those 
friends who have come to offer comfort. Martha gives 
her news secretly in the hope that Mary may escape 
from the friends and have, as she has had, a few 
moments alone with Jesus. Mary hurries out with the 
same object; and with that object, as we may suppose, 
the Lord has waited in the quiet place outside the 
village where the conversation with Martha took place. 
But in vain; the kindly but now unwittingly intrusive 
friends have followed. Mary, emotional and im- 
pulsive, throws herself down at Jesus’ feet, and says 
what Martha had said and what the two sisters had 
(we think) often said together : If thou hadst been here , 
my brother had not died. But this time the answer is in 
act and not in word. 

* 

33-38. Jesus, then, when he saw her wailing and the Jews which came 
with her also wailing, groaned in spirit and shuddered and said 
“ Where have ye laid him? ” They say to him “ Lord, come and 
see ”. Jesus wept. But some of them said “ Could not this man 
who opened the eyes of the blind man bring it about that this man 
also should not die? ” Jesus therefore again groaning in himself 
cometh to the tomb. It was a cave and a stone lay upon it. 

The passage represents the Lord as passing through 
a time of most severe tension. The word groaning does 
not suggest grief, but tensity of feeling, with an in- 
clination to indignation rather than sorrow. He is full 
of sympathy — truly feeling with, and not only for, 
the bereaved sisters : Jesus weft. But this giving way 
to sorrow, however natural the sorrow, is alien from 
Him, so that some antagonism is mingled with His 
sympathy, and the tension finds expression through 
inarticulate sounds and physical tremors. It is not 
only that His relation to those around Him is a divided 
one; but He is preparing for a mighty act of power. 



1 84 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

His “ signs ” were not wrought without cost to Him. 
There was self-giving in them; and when a sufferer 
drew healing from Him without His knowledge, He 
was conscious “ that the power proceeding from 
him had gone forth ” (St. Mark v, 30). So, deeply 
moved, He comes to the tomb. 

# 

39-44. Jesus saith u Lift the stone The sister of the dead man, 
Martha, saith “ Lord, already he stinketh; for he is four days dead 
Jesus saith to her “ Did. I not say to thee that if thou believest thou 
shalt see the glory of God? n So they lifted the stone. And Jesus 
lifted his eyes upward and said “ Father, I thank thee that thou 
heardest me. But I myself knew that at all times thou hearest 
me; but for the sake of the crowd standing by I spoke, that they 
may believe that thou sentest me.” And having said this, with a 
great voice he cried aloud “ Lazarus, come forth There came 
forth the dead man bound — hands and feet — with grave clothes, 
and his face was bound with a napkin. Jesus saith to them “ Loose 
him and let him go home 

Lift the stone — the stone which shuts the soul 
into its tomb of anxiety, or wony, or resentment. It 
involves the exposure of habits grown horrible in their 
rigidity. But it is the condition of response' to the 
quickening voice. 

Martha, the practical but loving sister, shrinks 
from the disclosure of her brother’s body now already 
(as she supposes that it must be) subject to decay. 
But the Lord reminds her of His words to her, which 
He now recalls in a summary paraphrase. Her objec- 
tion is silenced and the command is obeyed. Before 
the great word of command the Lord, for the sake of 
the by-standers, utters aloud His constant thanks- 
giving for the Father’s unfailing answer to His prayer. 
We are not told of any prayer; there was no one 
moment of prayer; He lived in prayer, and doubtless 
was in prayer from the time when the message of the 
sisters reached Him. Now for a moment He reveals 
His prayer and His assurance that it is answered. 



CHAPTER XI 


185 

Lazarus, come forth. The voice of the Lord 
quickens the dead. If only that stone be lifted, it will 
reach and quicken my dead soul. 

There came forth the dead man. The word is obeyed. 
The dead man came forth, but now alive. 

Loose him and let him go home. The grave clothes 
hold him fast. So old habits that are the symptom of 
sin may cling about us when the sin itself is eradicated. 
If we are truly to be alive we must be freed from these 
also. And then the task is to resume ordinary life. 
The dead man raised, the sinner forgiven, is not to be 
treated as an exhibit; let him go home. It is Bernard’s 
translation, and imports a little more content than the 
original has; but what it further suggests is not out 
of place. 

Let him go home. As spoken the words are an 
expression of sympathetic considerateness. As re- 
membered they express the goal of our destiny, to move 
towards which is impossible till we are raised from the 
“ death of sin ”, called forth from the grave of conven- 
tion, and released from the trappings of habit. Only 
the divine Voice can say of the earth-bound mortal 
Let him go home. 

* 

The sign, as usual, produces a division. For some 
it is the inauguration of faith; this is true of those 
whose presence was due to love. Others report what 
has happened to the authorities, and so bring them 
into effective action. 

45-57. Many then of the Jews — those who came to Mary and were 
spectators of what he did — became believers on him. But some 
of them went away to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had 
done. The chief priests and the Pharisees therefore brought a 
council together and began to say “ What are we doing? For this 
man is doing many signs. If we let him go thus all will believe on 
him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and 
our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, being High Priest that 
year, said to them “ Ye do not know anything, nor consider that 



1 86 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people and 
the nation not perish as a whole ”. (But this he did not say of 
himself, but being High Priest that year he prophesied that Jesus 
should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but that he 
should also gather together into one the children of God that were 
scattered abroad.) From that day therefore they took counsel to 
kill him. Jesus therefore no longer openly walked about among 
the Jews, but went away from there into the country near the 
desert, into a city called Ephraim, and there abode with the disciples. 
Now the Jews’ Passover was nigh, and many went up to Jerusalem 
from the country before the Passover to purify themselves. So they 
began looking for Jesus, and were saying among each other as they 
stood in the temple “ What think ye? That he will not come to 
the Feast? ” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given 
directions that if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, 
that they might arrest him. 

Many of the Jews became believers', the evidence 
convinced them. But it was not the evidence that 
made them susceptible to its implications. Those on 
whom it had this effect were people whose presence on 
the spot was due to a kindly motive. Love of man, 
even in a very simple form, may often be the precursor 
of faith in God; for indeed it is already, in its measure, 
communion with God (/ John iv, 1 2). 

But others were not so affected and went off to 
tell the news to the authorities. Now the Chief Priests 
are united with the Pharisees. So it had been in vii, 
32, but then the Pharisees took the lead. In ix, 13, 
15, 40 the Pharisees are alone. But now the Chief 
Priests take the lead, and from now onwards the 
Pharisees are mentioned only twice (xii, 19 and 42). 
This continues. In the Acts the Pharisees are inclined 
to be even friendly, and the Chief Priests are the 
opponents and persecutors of the Church. 

The motive of these Chief Priests is less religious 
than political. The raising of Lazarus is an event so 
stupendous that they expect the crowd to put the 
Lord at the head of a Messianic revolt, and expect 
Him to accept that part to play. They do not know 
that He has already refused it (vi, 1 5) ; what they do 



CHAPTER XI 


187 

know is that imperial Rome has shewn no patience 
towards native governments that cannot suppress 
revolutionary risings. They stand to lose their Holy 
Place and their national existence. Better than this, 
let one man die for the -people . 

When the evangelist wrote, the irony of this situa- 
tion had become manifest. The Romans had come 
and had taken away their place and nation. Jerusalem 
was a heap of ruins, and the Jews have been without 
a national home to this day. Moreover, the destruc- 
tion of the city was due to precisely that blindness to 
its true destiny which led to its rejection of Christ : 
“ If thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the 
things which belong unto peace! But now they are 
hid from thine eyes ” (St. Luke xix, 42 ; see also 43 
and 44). 

Caiaphas was consciously uttering a piece of cynical 
utilitarianism. Unconsciously he was summarising the 
Gospel. In one sense what he said was true ; but 
that sense was unknown to him — it is expressed in 
iii, 1 6, God so loved the world that he gave his only be- 
gotten Son , that whosoever believeth in him should not 
perish but have eternal life. But Caiaphas’ unwitting 
prophecy was accepted as the agreed policy. 

So the Lord withdrew for a while, and we see the 
crowds speculating whether He will come to the Pass- 
over (yes, He will, at the head of exultant crowds) and 
face what has been prepared for Him (yes, He will, 
quite alone'). 



CHAPTER XII 


(i) The Anointing at Bethany 

£-ri. And so Jesus, six days before the Passover, went into Bethany, 
where was Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. So they 
made for him a supper there, and Martha served, but Lazarus was 
one of those that reclined with him. Mary therefore, taking a 
pound of ointment of genuine spikenard, very precious, anointed 
the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair, and the house was 
filed with the odour of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of 
his disciples — he who was about to betray him — saith “ Why 
was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to 
the poor? ” But he said this, not because he cared for the poor, 
but because he was a thief and having the money-box used to steal 
what was cast into it. Jesus therefore said “ Let her alone that 
she may keep it for the day of my preparation for burial. For the 
poor at all times ye have with you, but me ye have not at all times.” 
A great crowd of the Jews therefore knew that he was there, and 
came, not on account of Jesus only, but that they might see Lazarus 
also whom he raised from the dead. But the chief priests took 
counsel to kill Lazarus also, because on his account many of the 
Jews began to go away and began to believe in Jesus. 

And so. The connexion is logical, not temporal. The 
Lord has ended his controversy with the Jews, and at 
the close of this chapter His judgement will be pro- 
nounced. Their leaders are set upon killing Him. 
He has withdrawn for a while to a place of quiet and 
security. But now his hour is come. And so He returns. 
He comes first to His friends at Bethany. They most 
naturally arrange a supper for Him. They do this, 
not in their own home, but in the house of Simon the 
leper (St. Mark xiv, 3, only St. Mark has a wrong note 
of time; his chronology of Holy Week, and conse- 
quently that of the other two synoptists, is mistaken 
at several points, specially the date of the Crucifixion 
itself. St. John is all through this period both re- 
ferring to the Marcan record and correcting it.) 

188 



CHAPTER XII 


189 

Lazarus was one of the guests who reclined, with the 
Lord, at the table. Martha, characteristically, was 
serving. 

Then follows a wonderful scene. Mary has some 
strange instinct that the moment is most solemn. The 
Lord has returned to a place where His life is in 
danger ; she at least will show her devotion, and she will 
do this in such a way as to prove that it is based on 
gratitude. Long ago, when she was still a 'woman in 
the city , a sinner {St. Luke vii, 37), she had crept into 
the place where One was reclining to whom her 
affectionate heart was wholly given; she had brought 
“ an alabaster cruse of ointment, and standing behind, 
at his feet, she began to wet his feet with her tears, 
and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed 
his feet, and anointed them with the ointment ”. And 
the Lord had said “ Her sins which are many are for- 
given, for she loved much ” (St. Luke vii, 38, 47). 
That was the moment of her forgiveness. Since then 
she has been a devoted friend of her Saviour. And now 
He is in danger. A great crisis is before Him. She 
will show her devotion, and the gratitude which was 
its source. She re-enacts that earlier scene. 

It would have been natural to anoint the head of 
the honoured guest, and St. Mark says that this is 
what she did {St. Mark xiv, 3). Even if St. Peter’s 
recollection was not at fault, it was very easy for his 
interpreter to miss the point. But St. John knew it, 
and by his repetition of the words His feet shews that 
he is correcting the current version. Mary does just 
what she did before, with only one exception. Then 
there were tears, but now there are none; for there is 
no remorse or shame in her devotion now; it is sheer 
gratitude and love. 

It is probable that in most of us the spiritual life is 
impoverished and stunted because we give so little 
place to gratitude. It is more important to thank God 
for blessings received than to pray for them beforehand. 



190 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

For that forward-looking prayer, though right as an 
expression of dependence upon God, is still self-centred 
in part, at least, of its interest; there is something 
which we hope to gain by our prayer. But the back- 
ward-looking act of thanksgiving is quite free from 
this. In itself it is quite selfless. Thus it is akin to 
love. All our love to God is in response to His love for 
us; it never starts on our side. “ We love, because 
He first loved us ” (/ John iv, 19). And His love is 
most of all shown in His treatment of our sin. “ God 
commendeth his own love toward us in that, while 
we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” ( Romans v, 8). 
That is the fact which constrains our gratitude and so 
inspires our love. 

To the worldly mind the acts of devotion are always 
foolish. God does not require our costly gifts for His 
honour; better spend on good works what is lavished 
on worship ; so men often say. And there is a lurking 
truth. For what men spend on acts of worship is spent 
on what they share, and the gift may therefore be 
infected with self-interest. We ought (for example) to 
offer to God in worship the best music that we can. 
But our subscription to the organ fund at our Church 
is likely to be more self-regarding than our support of 
a mission in a place we shall never see; for we ourselves 
shall enjoy the music. Yet it is true also that where 
lavish expenditure expresses the overflowing of a 
heart’s devotion, it is unspeakably precious. For love 
is the best thing that there is, and what represents its 
best moments shares that preciousness. The poor at all 
times ye have with you , but me ye have not at all times. 
The Lord would soon be taken away from Mary; and 
it is only at moments of vivid insight that any of us 
perceive His presence. At those times, there is a 
fervour in our love for the present Lord that will not 
often be found in our kindly attitude towards the poor. 
That may be genuine enough; and what we do for 
them is done to Him {St. Matthew xxv, 40); but it 



CHAPTER XII 


191 

lacks the completeness of the love which is adoration. 
As the best thing is love itself, not the benefits which 
it confers, there must be no censure of its lavishness 
as disproportionate. 

It is only here that Judas is called a thief. Quite 
apart from this, a man who was about to betray him 
would be incapable of appreciating Mary’s devotion to 
the Lord. But we know that he had that love of 
money which is a root of every kind of evil (I Timothy 
vi, 10); at any rate, when he thought of delivering his 
Lord to the Chief Priests, he wanted to know what he 
would get for it (St. Matthew xxvi, if). It may be 
that when he left the little group it was found that he 
had peculated. At that stage the Beloved Disciple had 
no suspicion of him (xiii, 28, 29). 

Let her alone that she may keep it for the day of my 
preparation for burial. This, which seems to be the 
meaning of the best text, suggests first, that the real 
complaint was that so much had ever been spent on 
the very precious ointment, and secondly that only a 
portion of the whole pound had been used now — at 
any rate before the interruption. The day of death 
and burial is not far distant. This ointment can be 
used then. Will Judas think it too costly for that? 

The house was filled with the smell of the ointment. So 
should every Church and every home be filled with the 
fragrance of devoted love. May this be daily more true. 

The story of the supper spread abroad, and a great 
crowd came to see Jesus, and (no less) to see Lazarus. 
This only meant that the Chief Priests, who had the 
much-belauded merit of being realists, decided that he 
must be put out of the way also. 

* 

(2) The Triumphal Entry 

12-19. On the next day a great crowd which had come up to the 
feast, having heard that u Jesus is coming into Jerusalem ”, took 

O 



192 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet him, and kept 
crying aloud “ Hosanna, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of 
the Lord even the King of Israel And Jesus, having found a 
young ass, took his seat upon it, as it is written “ Fear not, daughter 
of Sion; behold thy king cometh, seated upon the foal of an ass ”, 
These things his disciples did not understand at first, but when Jesus 
was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written 
upon him, and that they did these things to him. So witness was 
borne by the crowd which was with him when he called Lazarus 
from the tomb and raised him from the dead. For this reason also 
the crowd met him, because they heard that he had done this sign. 
The Pharisees therefore said to one another “ Take notice that 
ye are gaining nothing. Behold, the world is gone away after him.” 

On the next day. Simon’s supper took place on 
what we should call Saturday evening, but after sun- 
set, so the sabbath was over. The events now to be 
recorded took place on Sunday morning. A crowd 
which hears the news Jesus is coming flocks out to 
meet him. This would, consist largely of Galilean 
pilgrims bivouacking round the city till the day of the 
feast a week later. Besides these, a crowd of those 
who witnessed the raising of Lazarus took part. They 
cut off the branches of the -palm trees along the road that 
runs from Bethany along the slopes of Olivet, and 
perpetually utter their cry of welcome to the King of 
Israel. The Lord is ready for this and this time he 
yields Himself to it, for He knows what the sequel 
will be (xii, 24). There is no need now to escape from 
the zeal of those who would make Him a King, as 
there had been after the miracle of feeding (vi, 15). 
But He will declare the manner of His Kingship. 

The story of the Entry, and of the fetching of the 
ass, was well known. The latter can be briefly dis- 
missed with the words Jesus, having found a young ass. 
The ass was actually fetched by two disciples; but 
they were acting under Jesus’ directions, who had 
evidently warned the owner of the ass to expect them 
and had supplied a pass-word which the disciples were 
to use (St. Mark xi, 1-6). A king or chief rode on a 
horse when his purpose was warlike, on an ass when 



CHAPTER XII 


193 

he came peaceably. Thus the Lord, by deliberately 
fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy, at once claims to be 
the Messiah and declares in part the kind of Messiah 
that He will be. That prophecy in its complete form 
emphasises the lowliness of the Coming King, and 
describes Him as ending war and establishing universal 
peace: “ Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, 
O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh 
unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and 
riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass. 
And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the 
horse from Jerusalem, and the battle-bow shall be cut 
off; and he shall speak peace unto the nations; and 
his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the 
river to the ends of the earth ” ( Zechariah ix, 9, 10). 
The Lord was coming to found a universal fellowship 
centred upon Himself (32); and later when Jesus was 
glorified His disciples looked back and understood the 
meaning of what He had done and had consented that 
others should do to Him; they realised that He is the 
basis of those Scriptures (for this is what the curious 
Greek phrase means). The end of the Evangelist’s 
note — they did these things to him — fits much better 
with the fuller Synoptist narrative than with the 
Johannine abbreviation of it; no doubt the Evangelist 
had it in mind as he wrote. 

So two crowds accompany the Lord — those who 
had seen the raising of Lazarus, and those from within 
or round about the city who go out to meet Him. 
The Pharisees are utterly dismayed. Their own folk 
have gone after Him with the rest. 

* 

(3) The First-fruits of the World-wide Kingdom 

As the Lord thus enters His capital as King, to 
establish a Kingdom “ from sea to sea ”, there seek 



i 9 4 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Him some who are not of this fold (x, 16) and their 
approach turns His thought at once to the sacrifice by 
which they will be won and His Kingdom established 
(23, 24, 32). 

20-26. Now there were certain Greeks from among them that were 
going up to worship at the feast. These therefore came to Philip, 
who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him saying 

Sir, we would see Jesus ■*> Philip cometh and telleth Andrew; 
Andrew cometh, and Philip, and they tell Jesus. But Jesus answereth 
them saying “ Come is the hour that the Son of Man may be 
glorified. Amen, Amen I say to you, if the corn of wheat do not 
fall Into the earth and die, it abideth itself alone; but if It die it 
beareth much fruit. He that loveth his life destroyeth it, and he 
that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto Life eternal. If 
any man serve me, let him follow me, and where I am, there also 
my servant shall be. Tf any man serve me, him will the Father 
honour.” 

The Greeks come to Philip, perhaps only because 
of his Greek name; but that name may represent 
Greek parentage. He was from Bethsaida, at the north 
end of the sea of Galilee, to the east of the Jordan. It 
was therefore within easy reach of the Greek cities of 
Decapolis, from which these Greek pilgrims may have 
come. Philip, as usual, is cautious. The Lord had 
said with emphasis that He had no mission to the 
Gentiles {St. Matthew xv, 24; St. Mark vii, 27), and 
had excluded them from the mission of the Twelve 
{St. Matthew x, 5). Will He be ready to receive these 
Greeks? So he consults Andrew. Andrew, also as 
usual, is ready to put the matter before Jesus. Whether 
they were brought we do not know; the meaning of 
their approach, and the comment of the Lord upon 
it, fills the mind. But that comment would have 
an added relevance if they were present, as will be 
apparent when we consider verse 25. 

Come is the hour that the Son of Man may be glorified. 
The long waiting — first intimated at Cana (ii, 4) — is 
now ending. Three times this solemn phrase is used 
— here, at the Last Supper when Judas is gone out 



CHAPTER XII 195 

(xiii, 31), and in the High Priestly prayer (xvii, 1). 
Each time it is in close association with His death. 
For it is from the Cross that the light of God’s love 
shines forth upon the world in its fullest splendour; 
that therefore is in a supreme degree the “ effulgence 
of his glory ” {Hebrews i, 3). Even if the Cross had 
had no results, it would still be His glory; for His 
death is the sealing of His victory. That His body 
should die was no defeat; defeat for Him must have 
taken the form of cursing His enemies or sinking into 
self-concern. But through all the anguish love was 
serenely unshaken. To die thus was, in and for His 
own person, to conquer hate. But it was more than 
that, it was the means of winning that great multitude 
of whom the first-fruits were now ready to be gathered 
in. From the Cross He puts forth His might — 

The Man of Sorrows! And the Cross of Christ 
Is more to us than all His miracles . 1 

So He goes on at once to lay down the law of 
life through death — the principle which lies at the 
heart of the Gospel. Characteristically He finds it first 
in nature, which illustrates God’s laws. At a former 
crisis He had compared Himself to a Sower, and His 
proclamation of the Kingdom of God to the scattering 
of seed, which here and there fails altogether to take 
root, here and there shews promise and then fails, and 
only here and there succeeds {St. Mark iv, 3-12). Now 
He speaks of what happens to the seed that bears fruit. 
It must first die. It must lose its own identity, that the 
new plant may spring up. If it do not thus die and 
lose itself, it remains itself and nothing else; there can 
be no fruit. Death is the condition of fuller life. 

Thus in this reply to the Greeks He takes up a point 
familiar in their Mysteries and gives to it an added 
spiritual depth. There is in all Greek thought no 

1 From the “ Sermon in a Hospital ** in Mrs. Hamilton King’s The 
Disciples , " 



196 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

appreciation of the excellence of self-sacrifice. It might 
be necessary, and then those who were capable of it 
were praiseworthy, and the law of life through death 
was recognised as a natural fact, and was used in the 
mysteries as a ground for hope of a future life. But 
its moral value was not perceived, and no Greek ever 
dared to say that love is the best thing in life, and 
that accordingly sacrifice, whereby love at once ex- 
presses itself and strengthens itself, is the best form of 
action. Sacrifice need not be painful; its principle is 
the doing or suffering for love’s sake what (apart from 
love) one would not choose to do or suffer. If love is 
flouted that is painful; and the suffering chosen for 
love’s sake may be acute; the sacrifice of love in face 
of selfishness (or sin) is always painful. But the mutual 
sacrifice which expresses mutual love is the most 
joyous thing in the world. It is the life of Heaven. 

The Greeks never saw this. Plato calls upon his 
Guardians to leave the contemplation of eternal truth 
and govern the city in its light, and half apologises 
for doing so ( Republic , VII, 519 0-5 20 e); it is no 
injury to them, because they owe to the training pro- 
vided by their city their capacity to behold the truth, 
and we are only asking them to pay their debts. But 
that it is real loss to them is not disputed; nor is there 
any suggestion that to endure loss in a good cause is 
itself a good. Plato never took the step from Justice to 
Love in his conception of the Idea of Good. This is 
the point — the vital point — at which the ethics of 
the Gospel leave the ethics of Greek philosophy far 
behind. Consequently to those who told the Lord of 
the approach of the Greeks, and probably in the hear- 
ing of the Greeks themselves, the Gospel paradox is 
stated in its extremest form. 

He that loveth his life destroy eth it ; and he that hateth 
his life in this world shall keep it unto Life eternal. Self- 
love is self-destruction; self-centredness is sin, and 
self-love is hell. It is a condition that is bound to be 



CHAPTER XII 197 

miserable. The soul feeds on itself and so devours 
itself. But indifference to this earthly life, even to the 
point of dislike for it, is the counterpart to that absorp- 
tion in things eternal which is eternal life. There are 
two Greek words here, and we have to use “ life ” for 
both. The “ life ” which we must not love, the life in 
this world , is the animal life with all that goes with it 
of sentience and its pleasures. The other word, used 
in the phrase Life eternal , is the vitalising energy itself. 

The Lord Himself is giving the supreme example 
of the truth which He proclaims. His hour is come., the 
hour of His death and of His life through death, the 
life which is perfect fellowship with the Father. There- 
fore He continues: If any man serve me, let him follovo 
me. Thus is struck the keynote of the command to the 
disciples that will shortly be elaborated. Follow me'. 
that is the whole of a Christian’s duty. And where 1 
am there also shall my servant be : that is the whole of a 
Christian’s reward. But the place to which He goes is 
perfect fellowship with God, who admits to that fellow- 
ship as the highest honour that man can receive, so 
that to be where the Lord is and to receive honour 
from the Father are one and the same: If any man 
serve me, him will the Father honour. 

So the Lord turns to the journey before Him, the 
journey that leads by Gethsemane and Calvary to the 
right hand of God. 

27-33. “Now is my soul troubled; and what am I to say? ‘Father, 
save me from this hour ? ’ But for this cause did I come to this 
hour. Father, glorify thy name.” There came therefore a voice 
out of heaven, “ I did glorify it, and I will glorify it again ”. The 
crowd therefore which stood and listened began to say that it had 
thundered, others to say “ An angel hath spoken to him ”. Jesus 
answered and said “ Not for my sake hath this voice happened but 
for yours. Now is judgement of this world; now the prince of 
this world shall be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth. 



1 98 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

will draw all men to myself.” This he said signifying by what 
manner of death he was about to die. 

Life comes through death, but it is real death, and 
the soul shrinks from it. In the Greek the word for 
soul is that translated “ life ” in life in this world . His 
whole human nature, His natural humanity, shrank 
from what lay before Him. And what is He to say? 
Shall He pray Father , save me from this hour ? No ; 
that would be to contradict the whole purpose of His 
life and to frustrate the great hope of this hour. No; 
His prayer now as at all times shall be Father , glorify 
thy name. For the Father’s glory He has lived, and 
will so live unto death; His prayer is not to be freed 
from death, but that, whatever the cost, the Father’s 
name may be glorified. 

St. John does not record the Agony in the Garden, 
though He points to it very clearly (xviii, i, n). 
Here we find the substance of the prayer then offered, 
though at a less pitch of tension, as befits the moment. 
What took place in the Garden was not an isolated 
crisis ; it was the focus of a lifelong temptation and of 
a lifelong victory over temptation. 

As He spoke a thunder -clap gave the answer. 
Thunder was, by common consent, the voice of God; 
the same sound could be interpreted as thunder or as 
the voice of an angel ; to the Lord Himself it was the 
divine assurance that as God glorified His name in the 
death and raising of Lazarus (xi, 4), so He will again 
in the death and raising of the Son. Yet it was not 
for His sake that the voice came, for He needed no 
reassurance; it was for those who stood and listened. 

Now — for the hour is come and the climax is at 
hand — is judgement of this world. “ This world ” will 
set its forces in array — a worldly government and a 
secularised hierarchy will bring the Lord before their 
judgement seats. Yet they will not be the judges. 
They will pronounce sentence upon Him, but it is 
not He that will be condemned. “ Gentle, and just, 



CHAPTER XII 


199 

and dreadless ” — He is the judge, and they are the 
convicted and sentenced prisoners. So men have read 
the story of that strange trial through the ages. 

Now shall the prince of this world be cast out. They - 
will suppose that they are casting Him out. They will 
think on that first Good Friday evening which is now 
so near that they and the world are rid of Him for ever. 
But through the ages it is He who calls, and judges, 
and reigns ; and we have heard of Caiaphas and Pilate 
only because they came for a moment into touch with 
this Galilean. 

And I if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men 
to myself. Decade by decade, century by century, this 
prophecy finds fulfilment. From the Cross and to the 
Cross He draws men of every race and nation. And 
the prophecy goes on to ever more complete fulfilment 
in this world and the next. 1 will draw all men — 
including, then, those who condemn Him and kill 
Him. Sin sends Christ to the Cross, and by the Cross 
He conquers sin. My lust and selfishness crucify Him 
afresh, and by the agony I cause He wins me from the 
selfishness and lust. Here is the pivot of universal 
history and the interpretation of it all: “Thou art 
worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof, 
for thou wast slain ” ( Revelation v, 9). Here is the 
meaning of my life and the hope of eternal life for me: 

“ the Son of God loved me and gave himself up for 
me ” ( Galatians ii, 20). He will draw to Himself all 
men — even Caiaphas and Pilate, even Judas; — even 
me, at last, not only (as already, I trust) to a genuine 
though intermittent devotion, a deliberate though half- 
hearted service, but to that fulness of adoring com- 
panionship which is foreshadowed in the promise where 
I am in the intimate fellowship of the Father’s love, 
there also shall my servant be. 



200 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

34-36. The crowd therefore answered him “ We heard out of the 
law that the Christ abideth unto eternity, and how sayest thou that 
the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 
Jesus therefore said to them “Yet a little while the light is among 
you. Walk while ye have the light lest the darkness absorb you. 
And he that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. 
While ye have the light, trust in the light, that ye may become 
sons of light.” 

This language about “ lifting up ” begins to 
fascinate the minds of His hearers; He repeats it, but 
does not interpret it. He had not on this occasion 
used the actual phrase quoted; but He had used it 
before (iii, 14; viii, 28), and here He evidently means 
the same, though the reference is explicitly to Himself. 
Usually the phrase Son of Man is a title of the Messiah; 
but surely (they think) it cannot be so intended here; 
for this “ lifting up ” has a suggestion of finality, even 
of death, and we have heard out of the law that the Christ 
abideth unto eternity. So the Son of Man, as the phrase 
has been used, can hardly refer to the Christ. To 
whom then does it refer? Who is this Son of Man? 

The current expectations concerning the Messiah 
are thus set in sharpest contrast with the conception of 
His Messianic office which the Lord has formed: The 
Son of Man must suffer (St. Mark viii, 31 ; St. Luke 
xxiv, 26). The identity of title in that declaration and 
in this passage gives the clue to the interpretation. 
The Son of Man is the apocalyptic Christ who comes 
with the clouds of heaven ; that apocalypse is actualised 
in the moment of crucifixion. Of course the idea is 
too novel to find acceptance. It can be received only 
by the faith that grows out of habitual companionship 
with the Lord. So He does not answer the question 
of the crowd directly; to do so would involve an 
affirmation of the central dogma of the Church, which 
could only confuse His hearers. The Lord urges in- 
stead that they should practise that companionship; 
to begin that is open to them now. It is only for a 
little while that the present form of companionship will 



CHAPTER XII 


201 


be possible. Let them take advantage of it. Light is 
available now; if they do not use it to guide their steps 
they will be swallowed up in the darkness which every- 
where surrounds that light. For the light shineth in 
darkness and the darkness did not absorb it (i, 5). But 
it is ready to absorb, to swallow up, all who stray from 
the path of light. While, therefore, they have the light, 
let them believe in it, trust it, that they may become sons 
of light. 

It is by trusting in and living by whatever light we 
have that we become sensitive to fuller light, till at 
last we are “ full of light ” (St. Matthew vi, 22). And 
“ God is light ” (/ John i, 5). By trusting in Christ as 
we see Him, dimly because of our imperfect vision, we 
are led on to such appropriation of Him, that at last 
we are “filled unto all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 

iii, W)- 

This Second Act of the Gospel now closes with the 
deliverance of two judgements; one is that of the 
Evangelist (37-43); one is that of the Lord Himself 
(44-50). Some have suggested that they should be 
transposed; and it is true that the transposition gives 
an easier sequence and a more conclusive finale. But 
I think the familiar order is right. It is seemly to close 
the controversy, not with the comment of the Evan- 
gelist, but with the verdict of Christ. Moreover, the 
conclusive finale is dramatically wrong. What is 
wanted is not that Act II should be effectively wound 
up, but that expectation of Act III should be aroused. 
The close provided by the traditional order secures this. 

(4) The Judgement of the Evangelist 

36^-43. These things spake Jesus, and went away and was hidden 
from them. But though he had done so many signs before them, 
they did not believe on him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet 
might be fulfilled which he spake — “ Lord, who believed what 



202 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

we heard? And the arm of the Lord, to whom was it revealed ? 91 
For this cause they could not believe, because again Isaiah said “ He 
hath blinded their eyes and darkened their heart, lest they should 
see with their eyes and perceive with their heart and should turn 
themselves and I should heal them”. These things said Isaiah 
because he saw his glory and spake concerning him. Nevertheless 
even of the rulers many believed on him, but because of the Pharisees 
they were not confessing him, that they might not be put out of 
the synagogue. For they loved the glory of men more than the 
glory of God. 

The Lord withdraws into secrecy, so that He may 
have that precious time with His friends on which so 
much would hang. So in the Synoptist narratives the 
directions to the two disciples who are bidden to pre- 
pare for the paschal meal are given in a kind of cypher ; 
for no one must know, especially Judas must not know, 
where that Last Supper will be held, lest there be an 
interruption before its purpose is accomplished (<S 7 . 
Mark xiv, 13-18). The Evangelist sums up the situa- 
tion by reference to Isaiah liii. That prophecy was 
bound to be fulfilled, for it was an expression of the 
divine will; in a certain sense, therefore, it was, or 
(more accurately) what it expressed was, the cause of 
the spiritual failure of the Jews. The attachment of 
blindness to sin as its consequence is part of the divine 
order. God does not cause sin, but He does cause its 
appropriate consequence to result from it by the law 
of the order of creation. The prophet had apprehended 
this through a vision of the glory of Christ — who is 
thus identified with Jehovah; and this is correct, for 
Jehovah is God revealed; and God revealed is the 
Logos, Word, self-utterance of God; and the Logos 
is Jesus Christ. 

There were many even of the rulers who believed 
secretly; only they lacked courage to confess, for they 
cared more for glory among men than for glory given 
by God. The Lord had said that this was the source 
of their failure to believe (v, 44). It is a penetrating 
test. Do I (I wonder) really care more about honour 



CHAPTER XII 


203 

that God gives than honour that men give? Of course 
I know mentally that it is the more precious ; but am I 
more eager to receive it? 

(5) The Lord’s Judgement 

44-50. But Jesus cried and said “ He that believe th on me, believeth 
not on me but on him that sent me. And he that beholdeth me 
beholdeth not me but him that sent me. I a light into the world 
am come, that every one who believeth on me may not abide in 
the darkness. And if any one hear my words and keep them not, 
I do not judge him. For I came not to judge the world but to 
save the world. He that rejecteth me and my sayings hath one 
that judgeth him; the word which I spake, that will judge him at 
the last day. Because I did not speak of myself, but the Father 
who sent me hath himself given me commandment what I should 
say and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment 
is eternal Life. What therefore I speak, as the Father hath said to 
me, so I speak.” 

There is no note of time attached to the record of 
this utterance. It is a summary statement of His own 
claims and of the judgement upon those who reject 
Him. The vital point is that He is the spokesman and 
representative of the Father. To trust Him is to trust 
the Father; to observe or contemplate Him is to 
observe or contemplate the Father. He is come not to 
give light to the world, but to be light in the world, 
so that those who believe in or trust Him are delivered 
from its darkness. His purpose is not judgement but 
redemption. But judgement follows the offer of re- 
demption. He who has heard and rejected the Gospel 
is not in the same position as one who has never heard 
it. The message which he heard is his accuser. And 
this is so because that message is not original in the 
sense of originating in the speaker. It comes through 
Him, like His glory (i, 14), from the Father. The 
Father gave commandment what the Son should say, 
and Jus commandment is eternal life. 

It is not said that His commandment leads to 



204 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

eternal life, or that by keeping it we may win that life; 
but Ms commandment is eternal life . For His com- 
mandment is not a stark precept given by supreme 
authority; it is direction given by almighty love; it is 
the bidding of a Father given to His children for their 
true welfare; it is the impact of His holy love upon 
our consciences and wills. 

O Almighty God, who alone canst order the 
unruly wills and affections of sinful men; grant 
unto thy people that they may love the thing 
which thou commandest and desire that which 
thou dost promise; that so among the sundry 
and manifold changes of the world our hearts 
may surely there be fixed where true joys are to 
be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. 



ACT III 

THE LORD AMONG HIS DISCIPLES 

1. Chapters XIII and XIV: 

In the Upper Room 

2. Chapters XV, XVI and XVII: 

In the Temple Court 




CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 

The Feet Washing (xiii, 1-20) 

t-ii. Now before the feast of the Passover Jesus, knowing that his 
hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the 
Father, having loved his own, those in the world, to the utmost 
shewed his love to them. And during supper, the devil having 
already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray 
him, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, 
and that he was come forth from God and went to God, he riseth 
from the supper and layeth aside his garments, and taking a towel 
girded himself ; then he poureth water into the ewer, and began to 
wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which 
he was girded. So he cometh to Simon Peter. He saith to him, 
“ Lord, dost thou wash my feet? ” Jesus answered and said to him, 
“ What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt understand here- 
after ”. Peter saith to him, “ Thou shalt by no means wash my 
feet to eternity Jesus answered him, “ If I wash thee not, thou 
hast no part with me Simon Peter saith to him, “ Lord, not my 
feet only but also my hands and my head ”. Jesus saith to him, “ He 
that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean in his 
whole person; and ye are clean, but not all”. For he knew the 
man that was betraying him, wherefore he said, “ Ye are not all 
clean 

Before the feast . So the Evangelist emphasises his 
chronology, which differs from that suggested by the 
Synoptists. 

Knowing that his hour was come that he should depart 
out of this world unto the Father . The great moment 
which was still far off at Cana (ii, 4) is now near* The 
Lord knows this. Though His course is adjusted to 
the response of men or their lack of it, yet He moves 
through the drama as always master of circumstances, 
using each for the fulfilment of His own purpose, 
which now approaches its goal. That goal had always 
been that he should go unto the Father; for this 
means the attainment of the perfection of holiness and 

207 p 



208 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

love. He was “ perfect ” at every stage, as infant, 
as boy, as youth, as man; but it is evident that there 
is a height and depth of “ perfection ” in the man’s 
obedience to God which has no place in the boy’s and 
no meaning for the infant. “ Perfect ” at every stage, 
He “ yet learned obedience by the things which He 
suffered, and having been made perfect (or full grown) 
became to all them that obey Him the cause of eternal 
salvation ” (Hebrews v, 9). 

His hour , then, is come that He should attain to 
that perfection of holiness and love which is complete 
union with the Father. Consequently what follows 
is a manifestation of the meaning of that “ hour ”. 
Having loved his own> those in the world , to the utmost 
shewed he his love to them . Love grows by the acts 
that express it; what the Lord now does is at once 
the manifestation and attainment of perfect love: to 
the utmost (not “ to the end ”) — the limit is now 
reached; it is the bosom of the Father (i, 18) in which, 
in a sense, the Son had always lain, yet to which now 
He comes in the completion of His self-offering. 

During supper — while it was going on, not “ when 
it was ended ” (A.V.). There was a sense of special 
solemnity about this supper, and this seems to have 
led to a dispute about precedence (St. Luke xxii, 24). 
St. Luke tells us that the Lord answered this partly 
in words which He is recorded to have used when the 
Sons of Zebedee had claimed pre-eminence (St. Mark 
x, 42-44), but continuing — “ Whether is greater, he 
that sitteth at meat or he that serveth? is not he that 
sitteth at meat? but I am in the midst of you as he 
that serveth ” (St. Luke xxii, 27). St. John tells us that 
He not only spoke, but acted what He said. As a 
rebuke to their worldly strivings, He, their Lord and 
Master (14) shewed them what dignity is in the 
Kingdom of God by rendering to them the most menial 
service that could be asked of a slave. 

The scene for the consummation is fully set and 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 


209 

the actors have their parts. The purpose of Judas is 
formed. The Lord’s supreme opportunity is come. 

Knowing that the Father had given all things into his 
hands and that he was come from God and went to God . 
The occasion of His action was the dispute among 
the disciples about precedence; but it had a deeper 
motive. He is possessed by a special sense of divine 
commission and authority. How does He express 
that sense? Does He order a throne to be placed 
that He may receive the homage of His subjects? 
No — Ji e riseth from the supper and layeth aside his 
garments , and taking a towel girded himself; then he 
poureth water into the ewer , 1 * * and began to wash the 
disciples 9 feet and to wipe them with the towel with 
which he was girded . So He will display Divine 
Majesty. 

We rather shrink from this revelation. We are 
ready, perhaps, to be humble before God; but we 
do not want Him to be humble in His dealings with 
us. We should like Him, who has the right, to glory 
in His goodness and greatness; then we, as we pass 
from His presence, may be entitled to pride ourselves 
on such achievements as distinguish us above other 
men. 

But the worship of Jesus Christ makes that im- 
possible to justify. We worship the Infant in the 
manger, for whom there was no room in the inn. We 
worship one who meets our obeisance by rendering to 
us menial service. So far as that worship is genuine 
and complete, pride is eliminated; for He whom we 
worship is humility itself incarnate. 

The divine humility shews itself in rendering 
service. He who is entitled to claim the service of 
all His creatures chooses first to give His service to 
them. “ The Son of Man came not to receive service 

1 The “ ewer ” is the vessel used for pouring the water over the feet of 

the guests on their arrival, not a vessel (bason) into which it fell from their 

feet, or in which their feet might be placed. 



2 io READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

but to give it ” (St. Mark x, 45). But man’s humility- 
does not begin with the giving of service; it begins 
with the readiness to receive it. For there can be much 
pride and condescension in our giving of service. It 
is wholesome only when it is offered spontaneously on 
the impulse of real love; the conscientious offer of 
it is almost sure to “ have the nature of sin ” (Article 
XIII), as almost all virtue has of which the origin is 
in our own deliberate wills. For unless the will is 
perfectly cleansed, its natural or original sin — the 
sin inherent in it of acting from the self instead of 
God as centre — contaminates all its works. So man’s 
humility shews itself first in the readiness to receive 
service from our fellow-men and supremely from 
God. To accept service from men is to acknowledge 
a measure of dependence on them. It is well for us to 
stand on our own feet; to go through life in parasitic 
dependence on others, contributing nothing, is con- 
temptible; but those who are doing their share of 
the world’s work should have no hesitation in receiv- 
ing what the love or generosity or pity of others may 
offer. The desire “ not to be beholden to anybody ” 
is completely unchristian. Of course, it is equally 
true that to take all and offer nothing is even more 
opposed to the Christian spirit. 

But it is the service of God which we must above 
all be ready to accept. We say in the most familiar of 
the Collects, “ O God, forasmuch as without thee we 

are not able to please thee ” Our first thought 

must never be, “ What can I do for God? ” The 
answer to that is, Nothing. The first thought must 
always be “ What would God do for me? ” The answer 
may be put in many ways; one is that He would 
cleanse me. When I recognise that, I am both admit- 
ting that I need to be cleansed, and acknowledging that 
I cannot cleanse myself. Moreover it is to each singly 
that the cleansing service is offered, according to his 
own stains. 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 21 1 

So he cometh to Simon Peter. This individual 
approach leads Him to offer the cleansing service to 
that loyal, generous, impulsive Simon. His loyalty 
and generosity rebel. It is not any vice, but the 
very virtue ' in him, that is horrified by the Lord’s 
demeanour. Lord, dost thou wash my feet? The 
relationship between them renders such an action 
incredible. As Simon Peter emphasised the pronouns 
to display this incompatibility of lordship and service, 
so the Lord emphasises the pronouns as He points 
out the incapacity (at present) of the Disciple to under- 
stand the Master’s purpose. 

What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt 
understand hereafter. Simon Peter does not question 
that; he only knows that what is proposed is intoler- 
able and must always remain so: Thou shalt by no 
means wash my feet to eternity. Whatever others may 
allow, he at least will never permit this outrage — no, 
not to eternity. (Ah, Peter, you have struck the right 
note there; for it is unto eternity that your Lord 
would cleanse you.) But none can have fellowship 
with Jesus save those whom He Himself has washed. 
If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. That 
swings Peter over to demand more than was offered: 
Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head. 
It is loyalty that speaks, and generosity, but it is not 
faith; for the one thing Peter cannot do is leave the 
Lord alone to act as He pleases; the loyalty and the 
generosity are infected with self-will. So his eager 
utterance is met by a calm moderation that has the 
effect of a mild rebuke. He that is bathed needeth not 
save to wash his feet, but is clean in his whole person ; 
and ye are clean. 

Guests usually bathed before starting to a feast; 
but, walking to the appointed place in sandals, they 
would gather dust on their feet, and there was need for 
that washing of the feet to which the slaves of the 
host would attend. So it is said that the disciples are 



212 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

clean every whit. They are cleansed by their fellow- 
ship with their Lord and by His teaching: already 
ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken to 
you (xv, 3). But they are come to the feast, the Last 
Supper or First Eucharist, and to the glorification of 
the Son of Man. The last traces of stain must be 
cleansed away from those who are already clean in 
their whole persons. Te are clean , but not all. Even 
in that company of friends there was one who had 
withstood the cleansing influence. He had heard 
the word but was not clean because of it. And the 
Lord knew. 

Every disciple and every company of disciples 
begin by wanting to give service. No doubt it is 
wise that the Church should, as far as possible, provide 
opportunities for this. But every disciple and every 
company of disciples need to learn that their first 
duty is to let Christ serve them. We are not now 
thinking of those outside; the way to win them is 
often to give them some job of work to do so that 
they may feel that they are wanted and can help, as 
the Lord began His saving of the Woman of Samaria 
by saying, Give me to drink (iv, 8). Here we are 
thinking of those who are committed tc discipleship. 
For them the first duty is to let the Lord cleanse them 
by His word in their whole persons, and still to let 
Him cleanse them day by day frofai stains that come 
from life in the world; and at all times to leave the 
Lord to do with them as He will, not demanding 
either that He should not humble Himself for their 
sakes or that He should do them some service that 
might correspond to their devotion but would have 
no usefulness for His purpose. He knows what is 
best. It may not be good for me to be purified at 
once from some temptation of which I am ashamed. 
I must not clamour for that grace which it would 
most gratify me to possess. My part is to accept with 
wondering reverence whatever service He is pleased to 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 213 

offer, even when service takes the form of judgement: 
“ It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him 
good ” (I Samuel iii, 18). 

It is exactly the failure of such trust, the absence 
of such surrender, that may make us enemies and 
traitors while we are still in the company of His 
friends. We may go to Church and say our prayers 
and read our Bibles; the cleansing Word flows over 
us; but if our hearts are closed we are not cleansed. 
And the Lord knows the man that is betraying Him, 
perhaps before that man knows it himself. So of 
every company of Christians He may be saying Te 
are not all clean . Let each of us ask tremblingly, 
Lord y is it I ? 

* 

12-20. So when he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, 
and sat down again, he said to them, “ Do ye understand what I 
have done to you? Ye call me The Master and The Lord, and ye 
say well, for I am. If then I washed your feet, the Master and 
the Lord, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave 
you an example that, as I did to you, ye also may do. Amen, Amen 
I say to you, a slave is not greater than his Lord, nor an apostle 
greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, blessed are 
ye if ye do them. Not concerning you all do I speak; I know 
whom I chose; but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that 
eateth my bread lifted up his heel against me. From now I tell you 
before it come to pass, in order that, when it is come to pass, ye may 
believe that I am. Amen, Amen I say to you, he that receiveth 
whomsoever I shall send receiveth me, and he that receiveth me 
receiveth him that sent me.” 

The Lord does not leave His acted parable without 
interpretation. Once He had set a child in the midst 
of them as an illustration of greatness in the Kingdom 
of Heaven (St. Matthew xviii, 1-4). This time He, 
the undoubted Great One, has rendered the menial 
service. He is the Master or Teacher among His 
pupils; He is the Lord among His slaves: and this 
is the way in which He disciplines them. Most 



2X4 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

searching discipline, penetrating to the inward springs 
of conduct and of character as stripes could never do! 
But if we are pupils of such a Master, slaves of such a 
Lord, the consequence is clear. We must act to one 
another as He acts towards us. We recognise the 
truth of this ; the task is to act upon it — and we 
shirk that task. We would gladly wash the feet of 
our Divine Lord; but He disconcertingly insists on 
washing ours, and bids us wash our neighbour’s feet. 
This is an argument that appears elsewhere in the 
Johannine writings. “ If God so loved us, we also 
ought to love one another” (7 John iv, n). What 
gives cogency to the argument is the revealed char- 
acter of God. It is not cogent argument to say, “ If 
A loves B, B ought to love C,” unless A loves B and C 
equally. But the test of my love to God is the question 
whether I love my neighbour; for I know that God 
loves him as He loves me, and love of the loving God 
must shew itself in love of all whom God loves. “ If 
a man say ‘ I love God ’ and hateth his brother, he 
is a liar ” (7 John iv, 20). 

A slave is not greater than his lord , nor an apostle 
greater than he that sent him. The word used is actually 
apostle ; it means “ one that is sent ”; but the choice 
of it is not an accident. The Apostles are “ set in the 
Church first ” (7 Corinthians xii. 28), and it is specially 
needful for them to remember that they are not 
greater than their Lord, who shewed His greatness 
by washing the disciples’ feet. 

Not concerning you all do 1 speak. In that little group 
of intimate friends one was false. Perhaps he did not 
know even now how false his own heart was ; but the 
Lord knew, as He had known at the crisis marked by 
the discourse upon the Bread of Life (vi, 70). He 
knows the measure of our faith and loyalty better 
than we do. He may know that it is sound at the 
core even when our hearts condemn us (7 John iii, 20). 
But He may know that it is worthless even when we 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 215 

think it sound. I know whom 1 chose , that is, what 
kind of men I chose. The first pronoun is emphatic. 
There is no doubt or obscurity in the Lord’s under- 
standing of His followers (ii, 24, 25). He, at any 
rate, knew what manner of men they were whom He 
chose. And one was this hard nature. The divine 
love must pit itself against that hardness; if it pre- 
vail, a great triumph is won; if it fail in the first 
impact, that opens the way to a still greater triumph. 
But love must make its uttermost appeal, as very soon 
now it will (26). The Lord knows that it must fail; 
and He knows the terrible strain that this failure and 
its consequences will put upon the loyalty of the other 
disciples ; they shall be scattered every man to his own 
and shall leave me alone (xvi, 32). He does not hope 
that while the hour of darkness lasts they will be 
believing; but He tells them now what is coming so 
that when it is come and the hour is passed they may 
recollect that He foretold it. So they will see that all 
which had dismayed them fell within His plan, and 
faith in Him would revive : I tell you before it come to 
pass, in order that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe 
that I AM. 

From that assurance would spring the confidence 
with which they would proclaim the Gospel. They 
will know that they are sent by the Divine Lord; 
they will be His ambassadors;, to receive them will 
be to receive Him. An apostle is not greater than he 
that sent him ; but he carries the dignity and honour 
of the King whom he represents. He that receiveth 
whomsoever 1 shall send receiveth me. Even more than 
this is true. For the Lord Himself is the first Apostle 
( Hebrews iii, 1), and to receive Him is to receive the 
Father. So the greatest of all miracles is accom- 
plished; the gulf between man and God is bridged, 
not by man’s achievement, but by God’s humiliation, 
and as a result “ our fellowship is with the Father and 
with His Son Jesus Christ ” (/ John i, 3). 



216 READINGS IN ST. JOHN'S GOSPEL 

The Designation of the Traitor 

21-30. When Jesus had said this he was troubled in spirit and bare 
witness and said, 44 Amen, Amen I say to you that one from among 
you shall betray me The disciples began to look upon one 
another in bewilderment concerning whom he spake. There was 
one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, reclining in Jesus’ bosom. 
Simon Peter therefore beckons to him to ask who it might be. 
He, leaning back as he was upon Jesus’ breast, saith to him, 44 Lord, 
who is it? ” So Jesus answers, 44 He it is for whom I shall dip the 
morsel and shall give it to him So having dipped the morsel, he 
taketh and giveth it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. And after 
the morsel then entered into that man Satan. Jesus therefore saith 
to him, 44 What thou doest, do more quickly But none of them 
that sat at meat with him understood with what intent he said this 
to him. For some were supposing, because Judas had the money 
box, that Jesus was saying to him, 44 Buy those things of which we 
have need for the feast ”, or that he should give something to the 
poor. So, having received the morsel, that one went out immedi- 
ately; and it was night. 

The thought that one of His chosen friends should 
betray Him disturbs that serenity of mind which was 
unruffled before the taunts and threats of Pharisees 
and High Priests. He was troubled in spirit . The 
hostilities of enemies cannot wound the soul as does 
the disloyalty of a friend — “ mine own familiar friend 
whom I trusted, who eateth my bread, hath lifted up 
his heel against me ” (. Psalm xli, 9). To us He has 
said, I have called you friends (xv, 15), and our un- 
faithfulness is the unfaithfulness of friends; our dis- 
loyalty is as the sin of Judas; and the Lord knows 
our hearts: One from among you shall betray me . 

The scene is intensely vivid. The company is at 
table reclining each on his left elbow at an oblique 
angle to the table; so that the right hand is free to 
take the food. The Lord is in a central position, and 
the place to His left would according to custom be 
regarded as the place of chief honour. We do not 
know who occupied it. Sometimes it is assumed that 
St. Peter was placed there as recognised leader of 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 217 

the Apostolic fellowship. But though his eager and 
impulsive nature often made him the spokesman, 
there is no evidence that he had any special status; 
and if he was in this position, his beckoning to St. 
John (24) is hard to visualise. On the other hand, 
Judas was treasurer, and would very naturally be in 
this place at the table ; if he were, it was easy for the 
Lord to give him the choice morsel, and to speak to 
him so that the others did not catch His meaning or, 
perhaps, His words. St. Matthew records an inter- 
change — “ Is it I ? ” “ Thou hast said ” — in which 
the answer cannot have been generally heard. We 
assume then that Judas was occupying the place of 
honour on the left of the Lord. 

To the right was the Beloved Disciple, John the 
son of Zebedee. As he reclined on his left elbow, his 
head would be opposite the Lord’s bosom, and could 
be spoken of as resting in that bosom, that is to say 
in the folds of His garment. A slight movement 
would lead to his leaning against the Lord’s breast, 
looking up into His face (2 5). 

The Beloved Disciple is the type of complete 
discipleship. As the Son is in the bosom of the Father 
(i, 1 8) so the disciple is in the bosom of the Incarnate 
Son. 

The other disciples were reclining in a similar 
position at the other places round the table. 

Into that circle of apparently intimate friendship 
fall the words, Amen , Amen I say to you that one from 
among you shall betray me. What wonder that they 
began to look upon one another in bewilderment concern- 
ing whom he spake. So when the word that should 
make us search our own consciences is spoken we 
look round to see at whom the shaft was launched. 
There are few more moving moments in Bach’s 
Passion according to St. Matthew than the moment 
when, after the Chorus of Disciples — “ Lord, is it 
I? ”, the Chorale follows and every soul present 



2 1 8 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

confesses, “ My sin it was which bound thee 

Simon Peter is not content to be bewildered. He 
beckons to the Beloved Disciple to ask who is the 
traitor. He , leaning lack as he was upon Jesus' breast , 
saith to him, “ Lord, who is it ? ” So Jesus answers, 
“ He it is for whom I shall dip the morsel, and shall give 
it to him ”. The question is asked and answered, but 
secretly, and only the Beloved Disciple understands 
what follows. 

It was customary for a host to shew special honour 
or favour to one of his guests by dipping a choice 
morsel in the dish and handing this to him. The Lord 
shews that special honour and favour to the disciple 
whom He knows to be planning treachery. He makes 
a last appeal, and watches to see its effect. St. John, 
who alone shares the secret, watches also; and what 
he saw he wrote: after the morsel then entered into that 
man Satan. The traitor’s face went dark, and the 
Lord knew that the appeal had failed. In that moment 
of tense feeling His one desire is that what must come 
should come quickly. “ How am I straitened till it 
be accomplished ” ( Luke xii, 50). What thou doest , 
do more quickly. The rest suppose that this is some 
command to hasten an ordinary duty or task. But 
Judas understands; and St. John understands. So, 
having received the morsel, that one went out immediately ; 
and it was night. 

Judas moves to the door and opens it; St. John 
looks through it from the lighted room to the dark- 
ness outside. Judas goes of his own will from that 
light into that darkness, from the presence of the 
Light of the World into the outer darkness. There 
are no more pregnant words in the whole of literature 
than these — and it was night. 

The Lord had known what was in Judas’ mind. 
Judas had made his compact with the Chief Priests 
after the supper at which Mary had anointed the feet 
of the Lord and brought censure on himself by his 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 219 

reproach of her (St. Mark xiv, 1-11). As a result of 
this the directions to the two disciples who were to 
prepare for this kiddush or fellowship meal were given 
in a kind of cypher (St. Mark xiv, 13-16). Judas 
must not hear the description of the place so that he 
would be able to lead the Temple-guard to it and there 
carry out the arrest in convenient secrecy. That sacred 
time in the Upper Room must be kept free from 
interruption. So all arrangements are made., includ- 
ing the clue which the two disciples are to follow — 
the man bearing a pitcher of water. The two disciples 
follow him in silence to the appointed place, where 
later the Lord joins them with the rest of the 
Twelve. 

Knowing the traitor’s intention, what shall He do? 
Nothing could be easier than to speak a word to loyal 
and impulsive Simon Peter and the others. We know 
there were two swords in that room (St. Luke xxii, 38); 
and apart from any such violence as that suggests, 
Judas could have been left gagged and bound while 
the Lord escaped. So He would have saved His 
life; and so He would have lost His Kingdom. He 
had come to inaugurate the Kingdom of God, who is 
Love. His method was to live the life of perfect love 
and die the death of perfect love. He will not now 
fall back on any other method. So He makes one last 
appeal to the false disciple’s loyalty by singling him 
out for special honour. The appeal fails. “ What 
thou doe st) do more quickly Judas passes out under 
the Lord’s protecting silence. 

In that moment the Lord condemned Himself to 
death. He can still no doubt call for “ more than 
twelve legions of angels ” (St. Matthew xxvi, 53). 
But humanly speaking the Cross is now inevitable; 
events will lead to it; His doom is sealed; and He 
has sealed it. 



220 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 


The Glorification of the Son of Man 
(xiii, 31-xiv, 31) 

In that moment the Lord did certain things. What 
He did is already familiar to St. John’s readers. He 
took the bread, calling it His Body, and broke it and 
gave it. He took the cup, calling it His Blood of the 
New Covenant, and bade the disciples drink of it. 
For in that moment He was by His own act breaking 
His Body and pouring out His Blood. Not many 
hours later He was lifted up from the earth upon the 
Cross. The act of will that led to this — the essential 
act of self-sacrifice — was the choice of love’s way in 
dealing with the traitor — “ by which will we have 
been sanctified through the offering of the body of 
Jesus Christ once for all ” ( Hebrews x, 10). 

From the time of His Ascension onwards His 
followers have met together to unite themselves with 
Him in His sacrifice by doing again what He did at 
this, the spiritual crisis of the ministry. They meet 
in His Name, and He is in the midst of them; they 
are members of His Body and He acts through them. 
Still by the hands of the priest He takes the Bread 
which He calls His Body, breaks it and gives it. But 
we are that Body — “ very members incorporate ” 
therein. In union with His perfect sacrifice, we offer 
to God “ ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a 
reasonable, holy and lively sacrifice” to Him. Still 
we drink the Cup, that His Blood, His Life given in 
sacrifice and triumphant over death, may be in us the 
spring of eternal life in fellowship with Him. Whether 
or not He commanded us to use this rite, as I believe 
that He did, yet its significance and power consists in 
the fact that we do in remembrance of Him what He 
did “ in the same night in which He was betrayed ”, 
offering ourselves in the power of His self-offering. 

As in that moment the Lord did certain things 
recorded by the Synoptists and already familiar to all 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 221 

Christians when the Fourth Gospel was written, so in 
that moment He said certain things which it remained 
for St. John to record. 

31-35. When therefore he was gone out, Jesus saith, “ Now was 
glorified the Son of Man and God was glorified in him. If God 
was glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and 
straightway shall he glorify him. Little children, yet a little while 
I am with you ; ye shall seek me, and as I said to the Jews, ‘ Whither 
I go ye cannot come to you also I say it now. A new command- 
ment I give to you, that ye love one another — as I loved you, that 
ye also love one another. By this shall all men recognise that ye 
are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” 

When he was gone out. He went freely; the Lord 
did not cast him out (vi, 37; ix, 34); he went out 
freely into the night. He goes to fulfil his compact with 
the Lord’s enemies and to effect the Lord’s condemna- 
tion and death; his going leads to his own unending 
shame and to the Lord’s glory. Now was glorified the 
Son of Man. We picture the Lord watching the door, 
through which the outer night has been seen for a 
moment, until it is closed behind the traitor. Then 
at once He speaks. That going of Judas to hasten 
his treachery is the moment of the glorification of the 
Son of Man. For this is the kind of Messiah that 
He is; “ the Son of Man must suffer ” (St. Mark viii, 
31); that is the way in which He will inaugurate His 
Kingdom. God is Love; His glory is supremely 
what most displays His love; the Passion, to which 
by letting Judas go, the Lord has condemned Himself, 
is the very focus of the glory of the Son of Man — of 
man as God meant him to be, of the Messiah who 
came to restore the divine image in Him. 

It is not only Messiah’s glory, but God is glorified 
in Him. The martyr wins for himself the crown of 
glory; but also by his death he gives glory to God. 
So in higher degree the Son of Man wins glory by 
His obedience unto death ( Philippians ii, 8-1 1), but 
therein also gives glory to God whose love was 



222 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

supremely shewn by giving Him for the saving of the 
world (iii, 16). The Son of Man enters His own glory 
in the act of self-devotion ; but thereby also He gives 
glory to God to whom He is devoted ; and when we 
confess Him as Lord, we do this “ to the glory of God 
the Father ” ( Philippians ii, 1 i). 

But if so, if God was glorified in Him in that devoted 
act of choice which let the traitor go, God will not 
leave it there. God will vindicate that self-devotion 
in the perfected union of the Son with Himself, towards 
which the words recorded in xvii, 5 are the aspiration 
and of which the Ascension is the proclamation ; God 
shall also glorify him in himself. Nor is this a far-off 
consummation; it is now at hand; and straightway 
shall he glorify him. 

The Lord has spoken of what the great moment — 
for ever commemorated in the breaking of the Bread 
and the pouring of the Wine — means for Himself. 
He goes on to speak of what it means for His friends. 
It means that there can only be a brief continuance of 
the form of intercourse that they have known; yet 
a little while I am with you. There is an aspect of the 
coming separation of which He will speak later 
(xvi, 7). But separation there will be. He is going 
where they cannot follow. They will seek Him; it 
is not said, as it was to the Jews, that they will not 
find him (vii, 34), but it is said now to them as it was 
said earlier to the Jews — whither I go ye cannot 
come. 

As we have seen, this phrase does not mean only 
that the Lord is to die so that those who still live 
on earth cannot accompany Him; it stands for that 
union with the Father which has been His without 
defect from the beginning, but is His in all its plenitude 
in and through the Passion ( 'Hebrews ii, 10 ; v, 8, 9). 
That is a goal to which even the disciples cannot 
attain until a new power is come upon them, though 
then it will be possible (36). 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 


223 

This unattainable goal is that perfection of love 
which Christ Himself has shewn. This new com- 
mandment , to love as Christ has loved, is the impossible 
thing, except so far as we are “ in Christ ” (to use 
St. Paul’s great phrase) as the branches are in the 
Vine (xv, 5, xo, 12). He Himself will make it possible 
for us, but till then it is not possible. 

Does this command supersede the Second Great 
Commandment “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as 
thyself ”? No — that stands as the general rule of 
our relation to all men, with the understanding of the 
word “ neighbour ” which it receives from the Parable 
of the Good Samaritan ; my “ neighbour ” is anyone 
with whom I have anything at all to do, even by 
accident, and even though he is the kind of person 
that I naturally hate or despise. I am to care as much 
for his interest and welfare as for my own; and I 
need a most penetrating “ conversion ” before I do 
that. But here the Lord speaks, not of our relation to 
mankind generally, but of the special bond of love 
that should unite all fellow-Christians. Within the 
Christian fellowship each is to be linked to each by 
a love like that of Christ for each. That is the new 
commandment; and obedience to it is to be the 
evidence to the world of true discipleship. If the 
Church really were like that, if every communicant 
had for every other a love like that of Christ for him, 
the power of its witness would be irresistible, and out 
of that nucleus of self-giving love — love like that of 
Christ upon the Cross — would flow the power making 
men generally love their neighbours as themselves. 
The Old Commandment stands as a universal, and 
universally neglected, requirement; the New Com- 
mandment that ye love one another as I loved you has a 
narrower range and an intenser quality. When the 
Church keeps the New Commandment, the world may 
keep the Old. 



224 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

36-xiv, 3. Simon Peter saith to him, “ Lord, whither goest thou? ” 
Jesus answered, “ Whither I go thou canst not follow me now, 
but thou shalt follow me afterwards Peter saith to him, “ Lord, 
why cannot I follow thee now? My life for thee I will lay down.” 
Jesus answered, “ Thy life for me wilt thou lay down? Amen, 
Amen I say to thee, the cock shall by no means crow till thou hast 
denied me thrice. Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in 
God, and believe in me. In my Father’s house are many resting- 
places. If it were not so, should I have told you that I go to prepare 
a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come 
again and will receive you to myself, that where I am ye also 
may be.” 

St. Peter is puzzled by this language about a 
journey. To what place does it lead? The answer 
had been given earlier (vii, 33), but there is reason to 
think that Peter was not then present (see p. 176). 
It will be given repeatedly later (xiv, 12, 28; xvi, 
5, ro, 28). But the answer must gain its meaning 
as the discourse proceeds; for it is a spiritual journey 
on which the Lord is going. He goes to the Father. 
This involves His death; and His death is involved, 
not as a physical transition but as a spiritual sacrifice. 
Therefore, instead of describing His destination, He 
first insists on the incapacity of Peter and the rest to 
follow now. They could die; but if they did, that 
would not bring them where He is going; it would 
not bring them to perfectly fulfilled union with the 
Infinite Love. Whither I go thou canst not follow me 
now. But later that will have become possible — 
thou shalt follow me afterwards (cf. xxi, 19). 

Still Peter cannot understand. He believes that 
his loyalty is complete; he is ready to lay down life 
itself for his Lord. Why cannot I follow thee now? 
My life for thee I will lay down. It was no idle boast. 
A few hours later Peter began to fight when fighting 
meant certain death. So the Lord does not deny his 
readiness to die. But He knows that another sort of 
trial is coming, when the cause of the Lord will seem 
to be lost, and Peter in utter depression, very cold, 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 


225 

will have to face mockery and jeers. Then he will 
fail. Thy life for me wilt thou lay down? Amen , Amen 
I say to thee , the cock shall by no means crow till thou hast 
denied me thrice. 

We can imagine a little of the shock which those 
words gave to the hearers. To Peter himself it was 
such that through all the following scene, though others 
spoke, he, the readiest of all to speak, was silent. His 
next appearance is at xviii, 10, where he draws his 
sword and begins to fight for his Master, and would 
undoubtedly have then laid down his life if the Lord 
had not stopped the fighting. But great as was the 
shock to him, it was little less for his companions, 
and it is to all of them that the following words are 
addressed : Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in 
God , and believe in me. They were going to fail, and 
to fail badly. Peter would deny him; and of all it 
is written that they forsook him and fled {St. Mark xiv, 
50). The failure must not become a cause of despair 
or dismay; rather let it teach its lesson. When we 
fail in our discipleship it is always for one of two 
reasons; either we are not trying to be loyal, or else 
we are trying in our own strength and find that it is 
not enough. The former is known to be sinful, but 
occasions no bewilderment. If we do not try, our 
lack of success is explained, though our failure to try 
may well fill us with dismay. The root of that failure, 
however, is the feebleness of our faith as a settled direc- 
tion of mind and will. If our habitual faith were 
stronger we should always try to be loyal. When we 
try in our own strength and find it insufficient, this 
too is evidence of defect in faith. Our faith is strong 
enough to prompt us to try; but it is not strong 
enough to claim the power of God for His service. 
Until our trust is perfect, we need to supplement our 
habitual reliance upon God with special acts of trust 
— probably expressed in secret but conscious prayer — - 
at moments of acute difficulty or temptation. 



226 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Failure, then, always proves that faith is in- 
sufficient. It should drive us back upon God, forget- 
fulness of whose grace has caused the failure. Then 
every fall into sin can become the occasion for growth 
in grace. Let not your hearts be troubled; trust God, 
and trust me. 

One who so faces his own failures is steadily advan- 
cing on the pilgrim’s way; he, like his Master, is 
going to the Father. More than this; if he is thus 
travelling the right way at all, he is at home with the 
Father all the time. In my Father's house are many 
resting-places. If it were not so, should I have told you 
that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and 
prepare a place for you, I come again and will receive 
you to myself. 

The resting-places (/iovaC) are wayside caravanserais 
— shelters at stages along the road where travellers 
may rest on their journey. It was the custom in the 
East — and still is, where railways and motor cars 
have not yet penetrated — for travellers to send a 
dragoman forward to make preparation in the next of 
those resting-places along the road, so that when they 
came they might find in it comfort as well as shelter. 
Here the Lord presents Himself as our spiritual 
dragoman, who treads the way of faith before us — 
the “ captain and perfecter of faith,” rov rfi? Triarem 
apxvyov nal Tekeiarr/v {Hebrews xii, 2) — and makes 
ready to welcome us. It may be that we are still far 
from perfect fellowship with the Father; like Peter, 
we are about to deny our Lord, or like the rest, we 
are about to forsake him in flight. We have a long 
journey of many days before us ere our pilgrimage is 
accomplished. But there are, by God’s mercy, many 
resting-places. Otherwise of what avail would be the 
promise of the Lord to prepare a place for us? If it were 
only in the realm of ultimate attainment, would He 
mock us with the promise of a welcome there? Should 
I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 227 

There has not been recorded any promise in those 
precise terms. But the whole tenor of His teaching 
has been such as to imply the companionship of His 
disciples with Him as He goes to the Father. This is 
not the only instance of reference to former sayings 
which are not precisely recorded (cf. vi, 36; xi, 40). 
Apart from this, the construction of the words which 
has been adopted is preferable to the others which are 
grammatically possible, and it is therefore adopted 
here. 

The Lord calls us to absolute perfection; but He 
points us here and now to what is for each one the next 
stage, the next resting-place , on the way to it. And as 
we follow, we find Him 'there to welcome us. More 
than that — He comes to lead us there. If I go and 
■prepare a place for you, I come again and will receive 
you to myself. The image of dragoman and caravan- 
serai is still employed. There is no special reference 
to a final Parousia or Return in Glory, though that 
thought is in place in reference to the final stage. 
Our spiritual dragoman, who has gone forward to 
make preparation, returns to encourage us and lead 
us to the resting-place prepared. That resting-place 
is fellowship, fuller than before, with the Lord — that 
where I am ye also may be — until the last stage is 
reached, towards which we press on, “ the goal of 
the call upward which God gives in Christ Jesus ” 
( Philippians iii, 14). 

Every Christian must know something of what is 
here described. We reach a certain stage of fellow- 
ship with Christ, in spiritual apprehension and moral 
attainment, and find great joy. in it. But this seems to 
fade, until we become conscious that we are called 
to something higher. The Lord is gone before us 
to prepare the next resting-place. Then everything 
depends upon our response. We may stay where we 
are, becoming more and more torpid in spirit. Or we 
may, in St. Paul’s phrase, “ press on If we do 



228 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

this, we find the Lord meeting us and leading us to 
the next resting-place. Our sense of fellowship with 
Him revives, and with this our joy in it. Then the 
process is repeated. So we make progress, “ from 
glory to glory ” (II Corinthians iii, 1 8) till we are 
“ transformed into the same image ”. The new “ call 
upwards ” is sometimes an awareness of something 
positively wrong, a “ weight ” that must be laid 
aside ( Hebrews xii, i), and sometimes an apprehension 
of service to be rendered which calls for completer 
self-devotion. If we refuse to start on the new stage 
of our journey we forfeit the companionship of the 
Lord; but so soon as we even start, He is at our side 
again, returning that He may receive us to Himself. 

... If I go ... I come again. These do not 
merely follow upon one another. His “ going ” is 
itself a “ coming ”. For He goes to the Father, to 
whom all things are present, so that by His departure 
He becomes more accessible than ever before: see 
xx, 1 7 and comment there. 

In this wonderful passage there is another thought, 
the most wonderful of all. These many resting-places , 
marking the stages of our spiritual growth, are in the 
Father s house. If we are travelling heavenwards, we 
are already in heaven. And though the perfection 
of communion with the Father to which the Lord is 
gone is a place where we cannot follow him now, it is 
none the less true, not only that we shall follow Him 
afterwards, but that even now, if our faces are set the 
right way “ our fellowship is with the Father and with 
His Son Jesus Christ ” ( I John i, 3). 

Let us hear the amazing words again - — we, 
who are His disciples and would like to think that 
we could lay down our lives for Him, but also fear 
lest this night we may deny Him: Let not your hearts 
he troubled ; trust God ; and trust Me. In my Father s 
house are many resting-places. If it were not so, should 
I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 


229 

And if I go and 'prepare a place for you, 1 come again 
and will receive you to myself, that where 1 am, ye also 
may be . 

“'Yea: I come quickly.’ Amen: come, Lord 
Jesus ” ( Revelation xxii 5 20). 

* 

Our Access to the Father 

4-1 r. “And whither I go, ye know the way.” Thomas saith to 
him, “ Lord, we know not whither thou goest; how know we the 
way? ” Jesus saith to him, “ I am the way, and the truth, and the 
Life. No one cometh to the Father except through me. If ye had 
recognised me, ye would know my Father also. From now ye are 
recognising Him and have seen Him.” Philip saith to him, “ Lord, 
shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us ”. Jesus saith to him, “ So 
long a time have I been with you and hast thou not recognised me, 
Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. How dost 
thou say, 4 Shew us the Father ’ ? Dost thou not believe that I 
am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I say to 
you I speak not from myself, but the Father who abideth in me 
doeth his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the 
Father in me; or else on account of the works themselves 
believe me.” 

The goal of our journey is unknown except in its 
formal description. It is Heaven; it is perfect fellow- 
ship with the Father; but what those phrases really 
mean it is beyond our faculties to grasp: “ Things 
which eye saw not and ear heard not, and which 
entered not into the heart of man, whatsoever things 
God prepared for them that love him ” (I Corinthians 
ii, 9). But though the goal is thus unknown and 
unknowable to us, yet the Lord declares that we know 
the way. 

To Thomas, loyal and literal-minded Thomas, this 
is bewildering. We choose our road with reference to 
our destination. We do not go to a railway station 
and ask the officials to recommend a direction and a 
train; it is only because we know where we mean to 
go that we can reasonably even ask for advice how to 


230 READINGS IN ST. JOHN'S GOSPEL 

start. “ Whither I go, ye know the way.” “ We know 
not whither thou goest, how know we the way? ” “ 1 am 
the way” Though the goal is unknown, the way is 
well known, for it is the Lord Himself. We have to 
pass through Him if we are to come to the Father; 
we must be so united with Him that as He offers 
Himself to the Father He offers us also. No one 
cometh to the Father except through me. 

We are to pass “ through the veil, that is to say, 
His flesh ” (Hebrews x, 20). The human nature of 
Christ conceals the Deity from us, as it did from the 
Jews, until we are united with it and find the Deity 
indwelling it. We must eat the flesh of the Son of Man 
and drink his blood (vi, 33) so that His humanity be- 
comes the substance of our very being; then we find 
that “ our fellowship is with the Father ” (I John i, 3). 

Only because He is more than an individual man 
can He be the way for us. Shakespeare is not himself 
“ the way ” for me to write poetry, nor is even St. 
Francis “ the way ” for me to be a Christian. These 
shew me how poetry can be written and how Chris- 
tianity can be lived; they have a way of doing it, but 
neither of them is a way by which others may do it. 
But Jesus is not only a man who trod the way to 
God: He is Himself that supreme Spirit “ in whom we 
live, and move, and have our being ” (Acts xvii, 28). 
We can become “ very members incorporate ” in His 
Body as we cannot in the body of any other. We come 
to the Father through Him, and He is the way. 

The thought which has been expressed by reference 
to His Deity coupled with the Divine Omnipresence 
is, in the text, brought forward in another way. I am 
the way , and the truth , and the Life. It is possible for 
the Lord to be Himself the way because He is also 
the truth and the Life. He is the truth. Truth is the 
perfect correlation of mind and reality; and this is 
actualised in the Lord’s Person. If the Gospel is true 
and God is, ah the Bible declares, a Living God, the 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 


231 

ultimate truth is not a system of propositions grasped 
by a perfect intelligence, but is a Personal Being appre- 
hended in the only way in which persons are ever fully 
apprehended, that is, by love. The Incarnation is not 
a condescension to our infirmities, so that “ Truth 
embodied in a tale ” may enter in at the “ lowly door ” 
of human minds. It is the only way in which divine 
truth can be expressed, not because of our infirmity 
but because of its own nature. What is personal can 
be expressed only in a person. 

This personal truth is also the Life, the vitalising 
energy of all that lives. Already, even while we 
recognise Him not, He is the well-spring of what 
vitality we have. Our task is not laboriously to follow 
Him, nor in some way to transform our nature; our 
task is to recognise what is already and always fact, 
that all progress we make is through Him, all know- 
ledge we gain is of Him, all energy we exercise is from 
Him. He is the way and. the truth and the Life. 

“ Ye know the way." “ I am the way." It starts 
where each one stands. We do not have to find its 
starting-place. It starts here where we are. For 
there is no conceivable combination of circumstances 
in which it is not possible to shew love; and “ God 
is love; and he that abideth in love, abideth in 
God, and God abideth in him ” (I “John iv, 16). 

So close is the union of Christ with the Father 
that if we know Him for what He is we are thereby 
brought to knowledge of the Father: If ye had 
recognised me, ye would know my Father also. The dis- 
ciples are beginning truly to know their Lord, so that 
they may even be said, in and through that know- 
ledge, to have seen the Father; From now ye are 
recognising him and have seen him. Apart from this 
understanding of Christ there is no vision of God (i, 1 8); 
but through this the vision of God is actual experi- 
ence. Yet the disciples do not yet grasp the meaning 
of their fellowship with Christ ; they do hot appreciate 



2 3 2 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

their unique privilege, in that they saw and heard the 
things which many prophets and kings desired to see 
and hear, yet saw and heard them not (St. Luke x, 24). 
So Philip, half-consciously perceiving that they stand 
on the brink of a great fulfilment, utters the deepest 
yearning of the human heart: “ Lord . , shew us the 
Father , and it sufficeth us That is the craving which 
alone causes all our restlessness; if that be sated, all 
desire is quiet. It is much to learn that this is our one 
great need. “ Like as the hart desireth the water- 
brooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God. My 
soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God: 
when shall I come to appear before the presence of 
God?” (Psalm xlii, 1, 2). “Whom have I in heaven 
but thee; and there is none upon earth that I desire 
in comparison of thee. My flesh and my heart faileth : 
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion 
for ever” (Psalm lxxiii, 25, 26). “When I wake up 
after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it ” ( Psalm 
xvii, 1 5). 

But Philip’s request is for something more than a 
manifestation of God as even devout Jews thought of 
Him. What was novel in the religious language of 
the Lord was His constant, His almost invariable, use 
of the word “ Father ” as the name of God. It is as 
though Philip said, “We have long believed in God, 
but make Him plainly known to us as Father and we 
shall be satisfied: Shew us the Father , and it sufficeth us ”. 

It is the utterance of the common need of all 
mankind. But the Christian has no right to make it. 
For him the satisfaction of that need is already avail- 
able. Has our discipleship yet taught us that Jesus 
Himself is the satisfaction of all that hunger expressed, 
for example, by the Psalmists in the verses which we 
have quoted? If not, we have not learnt our lesson 
and our discipleship is incomplete. “ So long time 
have I been with you and hast thou not recognised me , 
Philip ?” He had been in their company (the word you 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 233 

is plural) and here is one of that company who still 
does not recognise Him for what He is. So too He 
is in His Body the Church, and here is myself, a 
member of that Body, who have little more than an 
intellectual recognition of Him; my heart does not 
in fact find yet that constant joy in His presence, that 
“ peace which passeth understanding ”, which must 
be the result of communion with the Eternal God. I 
am assured, with no tremor of doubt, that fellowship 
with Jesus is fellowship with God; since, then, it has 
not the effect of fellowship with God, it must be an 
imperfect fellowship. I have no power to make it 
perfect; but when I desire that it should be perfect, 
I can expose myself to the influence which can make it 
so, and which streams from the Person of Jesus, the 
Word Incarnate. “ Lord, I believe, help thou mine 
unbelief.” Lord, I love; help thou my lack of love. 
Shew us the Father , and it sufficeth us. 

“ He that hath seen me , hath seen the Father .” Those 
are the words that we long to hear. We cannot fully 
grasp that supreme truth, as we should if our disciple- 
ship were perfect. We need to hear them over and over 
again, to let the sound of them constantly play upon 
our ears, the meaning of them perpetually occupy our 
minds, the call in them unceasingly move our wills. 
Jesus our Lord is “ the image of the invisible God ” 
(Colossians i, 1 5), “ the effulgence of his glory and the 
very image of his substance ” ( Hebrews i, 3). In 
adoration, in supplication, in dedication, let us take 
care always to address ourselves to God as He is seen 
in Jesus Christ. Never ask in prayer for any blessing 
till you are sure your mind is turned to Jesus Christ; 
then speak to God as you see Him there. “ This is 
the true God and eternal life. Little children guard 
yourselves from idols ” (I John v, 20, 21). 

How are we to hold our minds to this truth ? It 
must be by appreciation of that quality in the Lord 
which in this Gospel is most frequently emphasised, 



234 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

His constant dependence for all He is and does and 
says upon the Father. Can we behold that glory 
which is not His own but streams through Him from 
the Father (i, 14)? Dost thou not believe that I am in 
the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say 
to you I speak not from myself ’, but the Father who abideth 
in me doeth his works. The words of Christ are 
works of God. No man can do God’s work ; only God 
can do that. But God can indwell a man and work 
through him; and this general principle was supremely 
illustrated by Him in whom Manhood was taken into 
God. 

So there are two levels of faith possible to us. Best 
of all is that intuitive faith which apprehends Deity 
when face to face with it and can accept the claim 
which its very nature must make. Believe me that I 
am in the Father and the Father in me. But if that is 
beyond us, then it is still possible for us to face the 
works which He does and, recognising them as divine, 
acknowledge that He who does them must Himself 
be God: or else on account of the works themselves 
believe me. 

* 

The Effects of Faith 

12-14. “Amen, Amen, I say to you, He that believe th on me, the 
works that I do shall he do also, and greater than these shall he 
do, because I go to the Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in 
my name, this will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the 
Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” 

The works are signs and evidences of the Deity of 
Christ. But in the days when He was “ straitened ” 
{St. Luke xii, 50) they could not be convincing to any 
except those specially qualified by purity of heart to 
see God at work. Even the Baptist had been dis- 
appointed rather than impressed by them {St. Matthew 
xi, 2). There would be more persuasive evidence 
when, having accomplished His journey to the Father , 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 235 

He empowered His disciples, united with one another 
in Him as His Body, to act as His representatives 
in the world. The greater works need not be more 
startling miracles, for the degree of our amazement 
may be due to the scantiness of our knowledge or the 
vulgarity of our taste as truly as to the intrinsic marvel 
of what is accomplished. St. Paul found his converts 
disposed to give special honour to “ speaking with 
tongues ” as a peculiar manifestation of the Spirit, 
and had to insist on the superiority of “ charity ” as 
a “ more excellent way ” (I Corinthians xii and xiii). 
That a respectable citizen should love his neighbour 
as himself is less likely to be announced in double- 
column headlines than his utterance of ecstatic gibberish 
in a public place; but it would be quite as unusual, 
and a far surer sign of the divine presence and activity 
in him. 

In scale, if not in quality, the works of Christ 
wrought through His disciples are greater than those 
wrought by Him in His earthly ministry. It is a 
greater thing to have founded hospitals all over 
Europe and in many parts of Asia and Africa than to 
have healed some scores or some hundreds of sick 
folk in Palestine; and it is to the Spirit of Christ at 
work in the hearts of men that we owe the estab- 
lishment of hospitals. The accomplishment of the 
journey to the Father means, among other things, 
that the Lord is no longer “ straitened ” by the limita- 
tions of our mortal state; He is where God is, and 
that is everywhere. His works are no longer limited 
to Palestine but are diffused over the world. The 
transformation of Uganda is one of them; the 
inspiring record of the Universities" Mission to Central 
Africa is another; the fellowship of Chinese and 
Japanese Christians while their nations are at war is 
a third. The power to do these greater works through 
the agency of His disciples is His because He is gone 
to the Father . 



236 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Indeed there is no limit to what He may do through 
us, or (which is the same thing) to what we may do 
in His Name. To act in the name of another is to 
act as His representative. When we pray in the Name 
of Christ, we pray as His representatives; in other 
words, we are then praying for what is already His 
will, but for a part of that will which He waits to fulfil 
until we recognise Him as the source of blessing by 
asking it of Him; then immediately His power is 
released and becomes effective; whatsoever ye shall 
ask in my name , this will I do. But there is a motive 
behind this. It is not a merely mechanical release of 
power. There is something more at work than a law 
of cause and effect; the bestowal of blessing, when 
that condition is fulfilled on which depends its actual 
benefit, is for the glory of the Father. This is the 
supreme motive of every activity of the Son and the 
supreme object which every created thing exists to 
promote ; our success, or health, or welfare is of very 
small importance in itself; only because God loves 
us, unlovely as we are, have we value in ourselves; 
that value is our value to Him; and what gives 
importance to our well-being is that it brings glory to 
God. This is not to say that the Son does not act 
for love of men; for God is love, and the glory of 
God is the shining forth and the victory of love. 
Yet it makes a vast difference whether we suppose 
that God loves us because we are lovable, or that He 
loves us, in spite of much in us which deserves His 
antagonism, because He is overflowing love. So the 
motive of the Son in granting these prayers which are 
in His Name or in accordance with His will must be 
that the Father may he glorified in the Son. 

Yet this is not to be the last thought on the matter. 
The last thought, leading us forward to what follows, 
is the absolute assurance that prayers offered in the 
Name of Christ will be granted. If ye shall ask anything 
in my name , I will do it. 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 237 

We can hope to rest in His Name only if and so 
far as there is complete union of our hearts and wills 
with His; and that union is love. 

* 

The Promise of the Comforter 

15-26. “If ye love me, the commandments that are mine ye will 
observe. And I will ask the Father and he will send yon, besides, 
a Comforter that he may be with you to eternity, the spirit of truth, 
whom the world cannot receive, because it observeth him not 
neither recogniseth him; but ye are recognising him because he 
abideth with you and shall be in you. I will not leave you bereft; 
l am coming to you. Yet a little while and the world taketh note 
of me no more, but ye take note of me, that I live and ye shall live- 
in that day ye will recognise that I am in my father and ye in me 
and I in you. He that hath my commandments and observeth 
them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved 
by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 

There saith to him Judas, not Iscariot, “ Lord, what then has 
happened that thou art about to manifest thyself to us and not to 
the world? ” Jesus answered and said to him, “ If any man love 
me, my word he will observe, and my Father will love him, and we 
shall come to him and make a resting-place with him. He that 
loveth me not doth not observe my words; and the word which 
ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. These things 
have I spoken to you while abiding with you; but the Comforter, 
the Spirit, the Holy One, whom the Father will send in my 
name, he will teach you all things and will bring to your remem- 
brance all things which I said to you.” 

The whole of this passage, though long and packed 
with truths, must be considered together. First, love 
and obedience are coupled together, and both are 
associated with the coming of the Comforter (15, 16); 
then the meaning of that coming is partially disclosed 
(17-24); then the source of the Comforter's power 
in the historical ministry of Christ is made clear, 
and the thought of His coming is thus again linked 
with the love and obedience of disciples to their Lord 

(25? 26). 

If ye love me , the commandments that are mine ye 



238 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

will observe. This is a cumbrous translation, but 
there is a special emphasis on the word mine, and there 
is a special suggestion on the word observe. It is, 
as in viii, 51, the word which means “ watch ” rather 
than “ fulfil The suggestion is that of a standard 
of reference and judgement rather than of a literal 
obedience to precepts. The commandments that are 
Christ’s are such as do not lend themselves to detailed 
and exact fulfilment, for they concern the quality of 
spiritual life and not defined actions. We are to 
“ believe on ” Him; we are to love our neighbours 
as ourselves, and our fellow-Christians as Christ loved 
us. These cannot be obeyed with the same precision 
as commands to go to Church or to give a tenth of 
income for Church work. The commands of Christ 
will nearly always carry these and similar actions as 
incidental consequences of the obedience claimed, but 
they go beyond anything of this kind. 

Having thus drawn out the special tone of the 
’ words chosen, we can return to the more familiar 
version. If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments; 
and if we don’t, we shan’t. Let no one deceive him- 
self about that. There is no possibility of meeting His 
claim upon us, unless we truly love Him. So devotion 
is prior to obedience itself. I cannot obey unless I 
love; and if I am to love, I must be with Him whom 
I desire to love. Personal companionship with Christ 
is the first requirement, as it was for the disciples 
in Palestine. If we love Christ, and in whatsoever 
degree we love Christ, obedience will follow — not 
the external obedience of the slave who does what he 
is told, but the gladly given obedience of the friend 
or the son (xv, 15; Romans viii, 15) whose desire is 
to give pleasure. 

Our love is cold. It is there, but it is feeble. It 
does not carry us to real obedience. Is there any- 
thing that I can do? No; there never is, except 
to hold myself in His presence; the initiative remains 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 


239 

with God. But the Lord, who knows both the reality 
and the poverty of our love, will supply our need. 
I will ask the Father and he will send you , besides , a 
Comforter that he may be with you to eternity. 

The sending of the Comforter is due to the Son’s 
request. Here as always He is the mediator between 
the Father and men. His love for His disciples, 
which is itself the manifestation of the Father’s love 
for the world (iii, 16; v, 19), becomes the impulse of 
the Father’s action. But the manifestation of divine 
love in the Son had to come first (vii, 39) because this 
is what calls forth the new response from our hearts, 
or (to put it from the other side) breaks through the 
hard shell of selfishness and self-complacency so that 
the Comforter may enter. 

The familiar translation another Comforter , though 
literal, is misleading. It implies that the Holy Spirit 
is what Christ had been; and while this is true and 
important and is implied in 18, it is not implied 
here. We find the same idiom in St. Luke xxiii, 32, 
though the actual word used is different; the literal 
translation there is, “ And there were led also two 
other malefactors with him to be put to death ”. The 
English way of saying this is, ‘‘ two malefactors as 
well” or “besides”. The point here is that the 
Comforter comes, as the Son .came, by mission from 
the Father. As the Father sent the Son (a truth per- 
petually reiterated) so also He will, at the Son’s request, 
send the Comforter. 

The Comforter-, it seems best to keep the familiar 
phrase. The only alternative is to transliterate and 
say “ the Paraclete ”. But this is not an English 
word, and when it occurs in hymns strikes many as 
exotic. No translation will do it full justice; the 
Latinisation — Advocate, has to gain its meaning from 
the actual use of it in this Gospel as much as Paraclete. 
It represents one who is called in to stand by — 
it may be as a witness, or as an adviser, or as an 



2 4 o READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

advocate in the legal sense. The word “ Comforter ” 
was used by Wyclif and has remained in subsequent 
versions. Wyclif certainly understood it as meaning 
“ strengthener ” (confortator) rather than “consoler”; 
the suggestion is of one who makes us brave and strong 
by being brave and strong beside us. But to strengthen 
is the best of all ways to console, for it brings a bracing 
consolation and not a relaxing sympathy. 

That He may be with you for ever. Already begins 
the preparation of the disciples for the separation 
which is at hand. Their Lord must go away (xvi, 7). 
It is true that He goes to the Father (2 8) and therefore 
is for ever available for them (St. Matthew xxviii, 20). 
But the old form of intercourse, so familiar and so 
dear, will have come to an end. There will be no 
such interruption in the abiding with them of the 
Comforter. 

The Spirit of truth — the Spirit who is Himself the 
essence of truth and therefore also the Spirit who 
imparts or produces truth. The phrase carries both 
these meanings, and each is in itself a double meaning 
because of the subjective and objective aspects of 
truth. Truth, when we speak of knowing it, is the 
objective reality as it actually is, undistorted and com- 
pletely apprehended; truth as a quality of the mind 
is sincerity, which includes positively the desire to 
apprehend reality completely and accurately, and 
negatively the absence of conflicting interests which 
may bias or blur the judgement. The Comforter is 
the source of both kinds of truth. 

This title of the divine Spirit is sometimes specially 
valued by those who have not accepted the Gospel of 
the unique manifestation of God in Christ. They wish 
to follow, perhaps to worship, the Spirit of truth with- 
out first seeing God in Jesus Christ. They are right to 
pay all possible reverence to the Spirit of truth and some 
Christians can learn from them in this respect. When 
controversy arises, some theologians seem more con- 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 


241 

cerned to ask concerning any proposition “ Is it 
orthodox? ” than to ask “ Is it true? ” Such need the 
reminder of Coleridge : “ He, who begins by loving 
Christianity better than truth, will proceed by loving 
his own sect or church better than Christianity, and 
end in loving himself better than all ’V 

Yet those who follow truth without finding it 
incarnate in the historical Jesus of Nazareth, cannot 
claim to be led by that Spirit to whom reference is 
here made. He is one whom the world cannot receive , 
for it observeth him not neither recognises him. The 
world — that is, the natural order apart from God — 
pays no attention to the Spirit, and when it sees Him 
at work cannot recognise what is happening. It must 
first have the eyes of the mind opened by the touch 
of Christ. Certainly many who are not professing 
Christians are more sensitive to the Spirit of truth 
than many who are; but that profession is not here 
in question. The world is contrasted with those who 
have both been companions of Christ and have 
become His disciples, in whom response to the revela- 
tion and consequently the power of the Spirit are 
already discernible: ye are recognising him> because he 
abideth with you and shall be in you. The disciples 
already have some awareness of the Spirit, who is 
supremely known as a response to the love of God 
manifested in Christ, because as a company they have 
been taking note of His glory (ii, 1 1), though this 
has not yet shone forth in its fulness, and till that 
has happened the Spirit will not be active in all His 
power (vii, 39). At present it is rather in the apostolic 
company than in the individual disciples severally 
that the power is at work — he abideth with you. He 
will later indwell each one — he shall be in you. That 
is the necessary order. We are brought to Christ and 
received by Him into the fellowship of His Church; 
in that company we find the Spirit at work ; as we are 

* Aids to Reflection ; Moral and Religious Aphorisms , xxv. 



242 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

shaped and moulded by His influence thus diffused 
and exercised, we begin to find it within ourselves; 
this individual experience of the Spirit is normally 
subsequent to, and consequent upon, our experience 
of His activity in the Church or Christian fellowship. 
The two stages are marked ritually by Baptism and 
Confirmation. 

This coming of the Spirit is in a sense a coming of 
Christ Himself; so the Lord can pass in His teaching 
from one to the other. For St. John, as we shall see 
more clearly later, the Day of the Lord’s Resurrec- 
tion is the Day of the Advent of the Spirit. It is not 
true that the Risen Christ and the Spirit are identified ; 
but it is true that the appearance of the one is the 
occasion for the full bestowal of the other (xx, 22). 
That is not at all inconsistent with the record of Acts 
that there was a signal manifestation of the power of 
the Spirit at the ensuing feast of Pentecost; indeed 
the picture of a period of “ waiting ” after the initial 
bestowal of the gift, while it worked in the apostolic 
band like yeast in the dough, till at last it broke forth 
in a vast release of energy, is psychologically most 
probable. 

Having in mind what happened in that closed 
room on the evening of the first Easter Day (xx, 22) 
we need have no difficulty in understanding the close 
connexion here made between the coming of the Spirit 
and the coming of Christ. He has spoken of the 
former, and passes to the latter as something not 
separable from it. I will not leave' you bereft , I am 
coming to you. 

The translation “ comfortless ” with its apparent 
connexion with “ the Comforter ” has no warrant in 
the original. The Lord is going away; but, because 
He is going to the Father, His going is itself His 
return. So the moment of separation is the occasion 
of re-union. In English, the present tense has often 
a future reference; though this is not impossible in 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 243 

Greek, it is unusual. The tense here is a genuine 
present. The going is the coming; consequently as 
He begins to speak of going, He also says I am coming 
to you. The separation which is imminent will make 
Him invisible to the world, which will go its way 
ignoring the manifestations of His presence; but 
all the while the disciples will be aware of these, and 
will be taking note of His continued vitality and 
therein of the promise of their own eternal life. Tet a 
little while , and the world taketh note of me no more , but 
ye take note of me that 1 live and ye shall live. 

When the disciples come to know their Lord as 
one “ that liveth, and was dead, and is alive for ever- 
more ”, they will also know Him as one that has 
“ the keys of Death and of Hades ” (Revelation i, 18), 
so that He can release His own from the grip of 
death and be to them a source of life. St. John does 
not encourage either the Greek doctrine of immor- 
tality nor the Pharisees’ hope of a resurrection apart 
from God’s act in and through Christ; eternal life is 
a gift of God in Christ who is Himself the Resurrection 
and the Life (xi, 25). Our hope of such life is grounded 
in the knowledge that He lives. 

In that day ye will recognise that I am in my Father , 
and ye in me , and I in you. In that day — the day of 
illumination which the Resurrection would inaugurate. 
By that illumination we shall recognise the Lord as 
truly the Mediator. The words used are the fullest 
expression yet given to that thought. Christ is in the 
Father; the disciples are in Christ; and Christ is in 
them. We have already (11) had the declaration that 
Christ is in the Father and the Father in Him. He is 
therefore in this double relation of “ within-ness ” as 
regards both the Father and His disciples. 

This truth is vitally connected with that of the life 
which He has and which by consequence we hope to 
have (19); for knowledge of this truth is itself that 
life (xvii, 3). And it is vitally connected with the love 



244 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

for Him which issues in observance of His com- 
mandments (21); for the “ within-ness ” asserted is 
the perfection of love. 

He that hath my commandments and observeth them , 
he it is that loveth me. Love was spoken of as the 
source of obedience (15); now obedience is spoken 
of as the test of love. Our love for Christ, won from 
us by His love for us, wins love from the Father, and 
loving self-manifestation from Christ. He that loveth 
me shall be loved by my Father , and I will love him 
and manifest myself to him. The Father loves all His 
children with an infinite love, such love as could be 
expressed only by giving His only-begotten Son. 
Yet there is a special love also in His heart for those 
who love that Son. The universal love of God is not 
a featureless uniformity of good-will. Good-will to 
all there is; but also for each whatever special quality 
of love is appropriate to him; and there must be a 
special quality of love for those who love the Son whom 
the Father loved before the foundation of the world 
(xvii, 24). The Son Himself, who is the “ express 
image ” of the Father’s universal love, has a special 
quality of love (how could it be otherwise?) for those 
who love Him in return ; and to them He will 
manifest Himself. 

As we read these words of the Incarnate Word, we 
tend to forget that to His disciples He was first and 
foremost the Messiah, the inaugurator of the Kingdom 
of God. For them this made His words bewildering. 
If they had understood the Parable of the Sower it 
need not have been so; but though the mystery was 
given to them (St. Mark iv, 1 1) they still could not 
understand a Kingdom of God which here and there 
fails to take root, here and there succeeds for a while, 
and only here and there bears fruit. The manifesta- 
tion of the Son of Man, when it comes, must surely 
be to all the world. There saith to him Judas , not 
Iscariot (we picture the Apostle John dictating to John 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 245 

the Elder and Evangelist, and when he comes to the 
word “Judas” the Elder looks up to protest that 
Judas had gone out; — in answer the words are added 
not Iscariot ), “ Lord, what then has happened that thou 
art about to manifest thyself to us and not to the world? ” 
To us: he claims for the whole band of disciples that 
they love the Lord, for it is to those who love Him 
that the promise of the manifestation was given (21). 
But he is bewildered by the thought of a limited 
manifestation. How can it be to us and not to the world ? 
The Lord gives no direct answer; the question as 
framed expresses a purely speculative interest, and to 
such questions the Lord never gives a direct answer, 
but always points to the moral and spiritual principle 
involved. Here that principle is the wonder and 
intimacy of the fellowship with God that results from 
love of the Lord Jesus. Jesus answered and said to 
him , If any man love me , my word he will observe , 
and my Father will love him , and we shall come to him 
and make a resting-place with him. The answer re- 
capitulates the teaching, bringing together the con- 
nexion between love and obedience (15, 21), the 
Father’s love for those that love the Son (21), and the 
fact that the Father and the Son are so united that 
the action of either is the action also of the other (20), 
so that the “ coming ” of Christ (18) is a coming also 
of the Father: we shall come. But to all this an addi- 
tion is made; as Christ prepares a resting-place for us, 
that where He is, we also may be (3), so here the love 
of Him prepares in our hearts a resting-place for Him, 
and not for Him alone but for the Father also. There 
is no emphasis here on the resting-place as a temporary 
abode ; but there is clear expression of the thought that 
the Father and the Son come to the disciple to be his 
guests. This is a thought even more wonderful than 
the other. That I should somewhere find a place, a 
little place, prepared for me in the Father’s house is 
wonderful, but my memory of God’s love makes it not 



246 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

incredible. But it would be incredible in any other 
connexion than that of this divine discourse, that the 
Father and the Son should come to lodge with me. 

This sanctuary of my soul 

Unwitting I keep white and whole. 

Unlatched and lit, if Thou should’st care 
To enter or to tarry there. 

With parted lips and outstretched hands 
And listening ears Thy servant stands. 

Call Thou early, call Thou late, 

To Thy great service dedicate . 1 


My spirit longs for Thee 
Within my troubled breast. 

Though I unworthy be 
Of so divine a Guest. 

Of so divine a Guest 
Unworthy though I be, 

Y et has my heart no rest 
Unless it come from Thee . 2 

“Unworthy” indeed; and for that reason the 
warning must be added. Like all words of divine 
promise, these are words also of judgement. For we 
may refuse the promise, and turn away the divine 
Guests. He that loveth me not , doth not observe my 
words; and the word which ye hear is not mine but the 
Father's who sent me . 

He has led them, and us, to the innermost secret 
(20) and the ultimate hope (19). That is all that can 
be done now, apart from some elaboration of the same 
themes as they make their way to the Garden of 
Agony (“ The Son of Man must suffer ”) and the 
exaltation on the Cross. For more than this they must 
wait for the illumination of the Comforter. These 

1 Charles Sorley, Expectant Expectant. * Byrom. 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 247 

things have 1 spoken to you while abiding with you ; but 
the Comforter — ■ the Spirit , the Holy One — whom the 
Father will send in my name , he will teach you all things 
and will bring to your remembrance all things which I said 
to you . 

Here first the Comforter is spoken of as the Holy 
Spirit, and that solemn title is given in its most formal 
and emphatic form. It was not an unknown title for 
the divine Being in His intercourse with man {Psalm li, 
1 1 ; Isaiah Ixiii, 10). But it was not frequent. Thus 
it was appropriate as the name for this element within 
the Godhead which became known through the dis- 
tinctive Christian experience of relationship to God. 

The Holy Spirit is not simply the Creator Spirit 
as He may be understood apart from Christ, though 
He is the Creator Spirit. It is only through Christ 
that we are able to recognise Him (17). The Father 
sends Him in the Name of the Son; He represents 
the Son, and His teaching is that of the Son. But it 
is not limited, as the teaching of the Lord is, by an 
approaching catastrophe which fixes the end of the 
period available. He can continue His teaching till all 
the ground is covered - — He will teach you all things . 
Especially will He make those days in Galilee and 
Jerusalem live again and yield up their secret — and 
will bring to your remembrance all things which I said 
to you\ for He is “ the Spirit of Jesus ” (Acts xvi, 7). 

* 

The sacred period in the Upper Room has reached 
its close. The Last Supper has been shared, the 
Eucharist instituted, the innermost secret declared. 
It is time for the Lord to start on that last journey 
of which He has so often spoken. But first He will 
say farewell. 

27-31. “ Peace I leave to you, the peace that is mine I give to you. 
Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be 
troubled or dismayed. Ye heard that I said to you 4 1 go away and 



248 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

I come to you ’. If ye loved me ye would have rejoiced that I go 
to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I 
have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass ye 
may believe. No longer shall I speak many things to you, for there 
cometh the prince of the world, and in me he hath not anything. 
But that the world may recognise that I love the Father, and that as 
the Father commanded me thus I do — arise, let us go hence.” 

Peace. It was the ordinary term of greeting or 
farewell. But on the lips of Jesus it meant something 
special. That special gift is His bequest; peace I leave 
to you , the peace that is mine I give to you. He is in the 
toils of a traitor; His enemies are gathering to destroy 
Him; and He speaks of the peace that is mine. It is 
an inward peace, independent of circumstance, spring- 
ing from His union with the Father. This it is which 
He bequeathes, and which can be ours by His gift if 
we will receive it. 

Not as the world giveth do I give to you. How does 
the world give? The immediate reference is to the 
words of salutation, “ I give you peace ”, which can 
be no more than a good wish. Christ’s bequest of 
peace is effectual, and actually bestows a permanent 
possession. Moreover the world gives its best at first 
and then that which is worse (ii, 10), but the “ peace of 
God ” is known to those who receive it as deeper and 
richer and fuller as years pass and the storms of life 
assail it. 

Since our peace is grounded not in circumstance 
but in the Lord, we should be free from all dismay. 
So at the close we return to the keynote which had been 
struck at the outset (i), but here with an added note 
as well. Let not your hearts be troubled or dismayed. 
The new phrase recalls the charge given to an earlier 
Jesus, familiar to us as Joshua, on the eve of con- 
quest ( "Joshua i, 9). So, as the later Joshua enters 
upon the last struggle of His victorious campaign, 
wherein He will conquer not only a promised land 
but the world itself (xvi, 33, where peace and victory 
are combined), He bids His followers be free from 



CHAPTERS XIII and XIV 249 

perturbation or dismay. The ground of their con- 
fidence is to be what He has told them of the goal of 
His journey. Te heard that I said to you , “ I go away 
and I come to you " . If ye loved me ye would have 
rejoiced that I go to the Father because the Father is 
greater than I. -His going and His coming are one 
thing, because the goal of His journey is the Father; 
to be with the Father is the fulfilment of His being 
and that He should go to the Father is the ground of 
their hope and strength (12). What matters is that 
they, and we, should believe that He is in the Father 
and we in Him, and that the mode of this reciprocal 
inherence is the sacrifice wherein is manifested the 
loVe which is itself that perfect union. Therefore He 
expounds the secret in advance so that the event — 
so strange to human thinking (St. Mark viii, 33) — may 
not destroy their faith but confirm it. Now I have 
told you bejore it come to pass , that when it is come to pass 
ye may believe. 

There is not much opportunity left for teaching. 
The world will soon break in upon the companionship 
of the little band of friends, and there is nothing in 
common between the worldly principle and the Lord. 
The force of all that makes the world what it is as 
a kingdom or system not of God will be put forth 
against Him in sheer antagonism; that will be the 
opportunity for the supreme proof that He loves the 
Father and perfectly obeys Him, a proof that must be 
given in action, not in word. No longer shall I speak 
many things to you , for there cometh the prince of the 
world , and in me he hath not anything. But that the 
world may recognise that I love the Father , and that, as 
the Father commanded me , thus I do — arise, let us go 
hence. 

So they leave the Upper Room and start to walk 
across the Temple Courts towards Kidron and 
Gethsemane. 



IN THE TEMPLE COURT 

Chapters XV, XVI, XVII 

In the lighted Upper Room there had been some 
traces of conversation, and not only continuous dis- 
course. Simon Peter (xiii, 36-38), Thomas (xiv, 5), 
Philip (xiv, 8), Jude (xiv, 22) are mentioned by name 
as breaking in with questions or comments. But as 
the little company moves in the darkness of the night 
through the city and across the Temple Court no 
individual disciple intervenes. So far as any speak 
besides the Lord it is some of his disciples (xvi, 17) or 
his disciples (xvi, 29) — a group murmuring their 
awestruck wonder or assurance. 

The first subject of discourse is that union of the 
disciples with their Lord of which He had spoken 
earlier (xiv, 20). He now describes it as a living 
union (xv, 1-10), and goes on to speak of its results, 
first in the relation of the disciples to their Lord 
(xv, n-17), then in the relations of the disciples to 
the world (xv, 18-xvi, 4). This leads Him to speak 
more precisely of His departure and the coming of the 
Comforter (xvi, 5-7), of the Comforter and the world 
(xvi, 8-1 1), of the Comforter and the disciples (xvi, 
12-15), of sorrow turned to joy (xvi, 16-22), of prayer 
and its answer (xvi, 23-27), of divine triumph (xvi, 

28-33)- . ... 

We picture the Lord and His disciples leaving the 
Upper Room with minds full of what had there been 
done and said. They walk for a time in silence 
through the dark street, and enter the Temple Court. 
There in front of them, glinting in the light of the full 
moon, was the great Golden Vine that trailed over the 
Temple porch, the type of the life of Israel entwined 

250 



CHAPTERS XV, XVI, XVII 251 

about the sanctuary of God. How frequent that 
image of the vine or the vineyard had been! It is 
enough to recall the “ song of my well-beloved touch- 
ing his vineyard ” ( Isaiah v, 1-7) or the Psalm about 
the vine which the Lord brought out of Egypt 
(Psalm lxxx, 8-16). Here is that vine in symbol; as 
they look at it the Lord begins to speak with a gentle 
smile on His lips and hand pointing to the golden 
vine — I am the vine , the true vine. 



CHAPTER XV 


The Living Union of the Lord and His Disciples 

i- io. “lam the vine, the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman, 
Every branch in me not bearing fruit — he taketh it away; and 
every branch bearing its fruit — he cleanseth it, that it may bear 
more fruit. Already ye are clean because of the word which I have 
spoken to you. Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot 
bear fruit from itself unless it abide in the vine, so neither can ye 
unless in me ye abide. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He 
that abideth in me and I in him, he it is that beareth fruit in 
abundance, because apart from me ye can do nothing. If a man 
abide not in me, he was cast outside as the branch and was withered; 
and they gather them and into the fire they cast them and they 
are burned. If ye abide in me and my sayings abide in you, ask 
whatsoever ye will and it shall come to pass for you — (In this w*as 
glorified my Father — your bearing fruit in abundance) — and 
ye shall become my disciples. As the Father loved me, I also 
loved you; abide in the love that is mine. If ye observe my com- 
mandments, ye will abide in my love, as I have observed my 
Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” 

1 am the Vine , the true Vine . The vine was a recog- 
nised symbol of Israel. But it was employed to 
represent, as it does in the two passages cited above, 
Israel's failure. The true vine stands for what Israel 
was called to be. Thus the Lord here proclaims that 
the purpose of God entrusted to Israel is in fact being 
fulfilled in Himself. He is Jhe true Israel, the faithful 
Remnant. He is in His own Person the whole People 
of God. Though the image was familiar, and its 
implication is startling, yet it has other special sugges- 
tions which are here most appropriate; for the vine 
lives to give its life-blood. Its flower is small, its 
fruit abundant; and when that fruit is mature and the 
vine has for a moment become glorious, the treasure 
of the grapes is torn down and the vine is cut back to 
the stem 



CHAPTER XV 


2 S3 


and next year blooms again. 

Not bitter for the torment undergone, 

Not barren for the fulness yielded up. 

• • * • • 

The Living Vine, Christ chose it for Himself: — 

God gave to man for use and sustenance 
Corn, wine, and oil, and each of these is good: 

And Christ is Bread of Life and Light of Life. 

But yet He did not choose the summer com, 

That shoots up straight and free in one quick growth. 
And has its day, and is done, and springs no more: 

Nor yet the olive, all whose boughs are spread 
In the soft air, and never lose a leaf, 

Flowering and fruitful in perpetual peace; 

But only this for Him and His in one — 

The everlasting, everquickening Vine, 

That gives the heat and passion of the world 
Through its own life-blood, still renewed and shed.i 

Those who heard the Lord speak had lately been 
in the Upper Room when He handed to them the 
Cup of Blessing, saying it was His Blood of the New 
Covenant, and that He would not “ drink of this fruit 
of the Vine ”, till the Kingdom of God should be come 
(Si. Luke xxii, 16). Those who transfer this chapter 
and the next to the middle of Chapter XIII find in 
that Cup the immediate occasion of this saying. We 
find its occasion in the Golden Vine on the porch of the 
Temple; but the mysterious words so lately spoken 
must have been vividly present to the disciples’ mind, 
and they must recognise that He is here explaining 
what so lately He did and said in the Upper Room. 

From the dawn of history, even from that twilight 
where history, legend and myth are inextricably inter- 
mingled, there had been a Community conscious of 
divine commission. Its origin is recorded in the Call 
of Abraham, in whom all families of the earth should 
be blessed ( Genesis xii, 1-3)* If this story represents 

* Mrs. Hamilton King, The Disciples. 



254 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

rather a tribal migration than an individual adventure, 
as some scholars think, that sharpens the point of our 
contention. When history begins, the commissioned 
community already exists. We trace God’s dealings 
with it as seen and interpreted by Prophets, with their 
deepening insight into the divine character and 
purpose. This shews them that the whole People is 
incapable of making that perfect response which the 
divine righteousness demands, and that the divine 
purpose can find fulfilment only in a Remnant. Then 
even this hope proves too high, and in the culminating 
intuition of the Old Testament an unknown Prophet 
perceives that the perfect response will be given and 
the divine purpose fulfilled by one individual, in whom 
the whole significance of Israel will be concentrated 
( Isaiah liii). So it came to pass. The Vine that was 
brought out of Egypt (Psalm lxxx, 8; St. Matthew 
ii, 15) is Jesus Himself, the true vine. But because He 
is not merely one of the sons of Abraham, but Him- 
self before Abraham (viii, 58) and one with the Father 
(x, 30), He is able to incorporate us into Himself so 
that we become His branches. The Tree that was 
planted on Calvary has shoots going out into all the 
world. By perfectly fulfilling the mission of Israel 
He released it from national limitations, so that from 
the Cross and Resurrection onwards the Chosen 
People is the community of those whose hearts have 
received the divine Word spoken in Him; from that 
time the Chosen People is the One Man in Christ 
Jesus (i, 12; Galatians iii, 26-28). For His life is 
offered that it may flow in our veins, that “ fruit of 
the vine ” which is the Blood of the New Covenant 
(St. Mark xiv, 24, 25), the love which has conquered 
death. (Let us here recall vi, 52-58, and the thoughts 
which it suggested — pp. 94-96.) 

My Father is the husbandman. As He was sent by 
the Father, so the Father has care for Him at all times 
(xi, 42); but the thought passes at once to the activity 



CHAPTER XV 


*S$ 

in which this care is shewn, and which concerns not 
the Lord in His own Person but His disciples. 

Every branch in me not bearing fruit — he taketh 
it away. The construction requires a pause after the 
word fruit. The possibility of a barren branch is real. 
The fact that we are “ in Christ ” does not make 
us sinless, as St. Paul recognised with vividness and 
perplexity. We may have been made “ members of 
Christ ” in Baptism and yet shew no “ fruit of the 
Spirit ”. That is not so terrible a thought where 
Baptism is administered in infancy; for however 
difficult that practice is to justify, and we ought to 
recognise that the justification though abundant is not 
evident, at least it alleviates the problem of post- 
baptismal faithlessness. But we are not here con- 
cerned with questions of ecclesiastical administration, 
even the most solemn. There is a profound “ mystery 
of iniquity ” here. It is possible to be genuinely 
drawn to the Lord, to follow His call, to be of His 
company, and still to bear no fruit. It is possible for 
a man to betray Him being one of the Twelve (vi, 71). 
When the Lord spoke of Himself as the Bread of 
Life, Judas was repelled. Before He spoke of Himself 
as the Vine whose “fruit” is to become our life- 
blood, Judas had been removed. He was in the Vine, 
“ in Christ ”, a branch not bearing fruit; and the 
Father had taken him away. 

Did he not go of his own will, when he went out 
into the night? Yes, certainly; but that action was 
no more of his own will than is the action of any who 
comes to the Lord. Yet this is due to the drawing of 
the Father (vi, 44). For the action of God is through 
our wills, and does not override them. He draws us 
by His love ; and men are never so free as when they 
act from the love in their hearts which love shewn to 
them has called forth. If, then, I come by my own 
will yet because the Father draws me, so also it is the 
Father who is taking me away if I depart by my own 


2 $6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

will. He offers me the love divine; it draws me or 
repels me, according to the condition of my will. It 
had repelled Judas: after the sop, then entered into 
him Satan (xiii, 27). His going was an act of defiance 
on his part; it was an act of condemnation and exe- 
cution on the part of God. This is the thought of 
judgement everywhere presented in this Gospel. 

We are in the Vine. Are we bearing fruit? No 
amount of ascetic discipline or devotional fervour is 
a substitute for the practical obedience which alone 
is “ fruit That obedience however is not a matter 
of “ works ”, though these will follow from it, and 
if they are lacking, there is no “ fruit Obedience is 
to God’s command; “and this is his commandment, 
that we should believe the name of his Son Jesus Christ, 
and love one another even as he gave us command- 
ment ” (7 John iii, 23). If we really “ believe the 
name ”, that is accept as true the divine word spoken 
in Him, and accept as indeed the revelation of God 
what we see in Him, and if we truly “ love one 
another ”, the works will follow without fail. Are we 
bearing fruit? Or are we ready for nothing but to 
be taken away by the Husbandman? 

Even if we are bearing fruit, there is no ground 
for contentment; there is still need for the pruning 
knife of the Husbandman: every branch bearing its 
fruit — he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit. That 
cleansing may be painful. It is almost bound to be. 
But the pain can be the condition of more abundant 
fruit. 

Pain, considered in isolation, is, no doubt, an evil. 
But we easily misconceive the problem of pain, as it 
presents itself to a Christian mind. The world, start- 
ing from a crude notion of justice as consisting in a 
correlation of pain and guilt, as though so much pain 
could be regarded as wiping out so much guilt, is 
bewildered by the suffering of the innocent. The 
Christian has no interest in solving the problem as 



CHAPTER XV 


257 

thus stated ; he must begin by formulating it afresh. 
For the evil of sin is so great that no amount of pain 
could ever be regarded as a counter-weight. Of course 
it is not meant that it is better virtuously to tell the 
truth and so facilitate a murder than to prevent a 
murder by telling a lie; but that is because lying with 
that object is not sin. Sin is the setting by man of 
his will against God’s — consciously (when guilt is 
also involved) or unconsciously. This is the essential 
evil; no pain is comparable to it. Consequently, in a 
world which sin has once entered, no amount of pain 
can redress the balance and vindicate the justice of the 
world’s order. The problem as stated above arises, 
not from the facts, but from a bad notion of justice. 
Pain is in fact evil only in a secondary sense; it is 
something which, other things being equal, it is right 
to avoid. But it must always be chosen in preference 
to moral evil, such as treachery or cruelty; and when 
it is bravely borne, it has such an effect that we could 
not wish it away. From a Christian standpoint, the 
suffering of the innocent is not so great a problem 
as the suffering of the guilty, or at least very much 
of it. It is noticeable in war that the suffering of 
the trenches refines still further the finer natures 
and brutalises still further the coarser natures. The 
attachment of mere suffering to crimes may perhaps 
deter the potential criminal; it seldom reforms the 
actual criminal. It is harder to see the justification in 
the eyes of a righteous God of pain which degrades 
the sufferer, however guilty he may be, than of pain 
which ennobles the sufferer, however innocent he 
maybe. 

It is of ennobling pain that we are thinking here. 
If we have any ground to hope that we are numbered 
among the branches which bear fruit, we can welcome 
every kind of pain that comes to us, knowing that it 
is capable of rendering us able to bear more fruit. 

We can make that claim; for the word of Christ 



258 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

is in our ears; and this is what makes “ clean ” for 
the bearing of fruit. Already ye are clean , because of 
the word which I have spoken to you. When He said to 
Peter Te are clean (xiii, io), He had not given the 
ground for that assertion. Now it is plainly stated. 
The disciples ot the Lord are clean because they are 
disciples, hearing His word — the utterance of Him 
who is the self-utterance of God. But this does not 
mean either that they are already perfect, or that there 
is no danger of contamination. The quality of life 
which springs from discipleship must be maintained 
and deepened by fellowship with the Lord. So we are 
led to the words which gather up the whole meaning 
of what it is to be a Christian. 

Abide in me, and I in you. The whole phrase has 
an imperative tone: let there be mutual indwelling. 
Of course the command is to the disciple, not to the 
Lord. Abide in me , of which the consequence will 
be that I shall abide in you; yet the two are not 
presented as occasion and consequence, but as a 
twofold condition which we are bidden to bring into 
existence. 

All forms of Christian worship, all forms of 
Christian discipline, have this as their object. What- 
ever leads to this is good; whatever hinders this is 
bad; whatever does not bear on this is futile. This 
is the life of the Christian : Abide in me and I in you. 
All truth and depth of devotion, all effectiveness in 
service spring from this. It is not a theme for words 
but for the deeper apprehensions of silence: Abide in 
me and I in you. 

As the branch cannot bear fruit from itself unless it 
abide in the vine , so neither can ye unless in me ye abide. 
From itself — as He has used the expression from 
myself (v, 30; vii. 17) in order to repudiate the 
thought that He is Himself the origin of His words 
and actions, so here He says of the disciple, who is a 
branch in the vine, that the source of his fruitfulness 



CHAPTER XV 


259 

is not in himself the branch, but in the vine of which 
he is one part. The disciple makes no claim to 
originality; his one aim is to let the life of the Lord, 
in whom he abides, and who abides in him, find 
expression through him. The subtle alteration in the 
order of words in the two parallel phrases emphasises 
the utter completeness of our dependence, which will 
be still more starkly expressed in the next verse. 

I am the Vine. Here is the last of the sevenfold 
declarations of His Person, beginning with the words 
of the Divine Name, I AM ; and it sums up all the rest. 
He is Himself the fellowship in which eternal life is 
found, and that life is His life. 

I am the Vine , ye the branches. He does not say that 
He is the stem and we the branches, though He, and 
none other, is the stem. So when St. Paul uses the 
parable of the body, sometimes Christ is the whole 
Body (/ Corinthians xii, 12, 27) and sometimes the 
Head {Ephesians iv, 15). No other is the stem of the 
Vine; no- other is the Head of the Body. Yet it does 
not express the whole relation of the Lord to His 
disciples to say that He is the stem and they the 
branches, or that He is the Head and they the limbs. 
He is the whole Vine, the whole Body, and we, as 
branches or limbs, are “very members incorporate” 
in Him. 

This language cannot be used concerning the 
relation of any human leader to his followers without 
such exaggeration as to be ludicrous. It can only be 
appropriate if He of whom it is used is that infinite 
Spirit “ in whom we live and move and have our 
being The tone of the discourse is here tender 
and intimate, not (as in Chapter VIII) severe and 
judicial; but the claim made by Christ concerning His 
own status is as great. We find the same transition 
from the claim “ All things have been delivered unto 
me of my Father ” to the invitation “ Come unto me 
. . . and I will give you rest ”, where the invitation is 



260 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

justified only if the claim is true (St. Matthew xi, 27 
and 28). 

He that abideth in me and I in him — he it is that 
beareth fruit in abundance. Here is the answer to our 
question “ How? ” when we hear the precept “ make 
the tree good ” (St. Matthew xii, 33). Our discipline 
is not a bracing of our wills to conformity with a 
law; it is the maintenance of communion with the 
Lord to the point of mutual indwelling. This so 
purifies the heart that at last there is no need for 
any deliberate control of desire, because desire itself 
is sanctified. But though our discipline is not 
conformity with a code, it is obedience to a command- 
ment; for “ this is his commandment, that we should 
believe the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love 
one another, even as he gave us commandment ” 
(I John iii, 23). The commandment is not primarily 
to “ do ” this or that, but to trust and to love, as 
appears very plainly in verses 8 to 1 2, to which we 
are coming. 

Apart from me ye can do nothing. “ Works done 
before the grace of Christ and the Inspiration of His 
Spirit are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they 
spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they 
make men meet to receive grace or (as the School 
authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea rather, 
for that they are not done as God hath willed and com- 
manded them to be done, we doubt not but they have 
the nature of sin.” Article XIII states the matter 
in the unsympathetic tone born of theological contro- 
versy; but what it says is true. “ The nature of sin ” 
is self-centredness — the putting of self in the centre 
where God alone should be. We are all born doing 
this; that is Original Sin. From this condition there 
may be partial deliverance through devotion to 
scientific truth or artistic beauty or patriotic loyalty. 
But such deliverance is only partial. In all my striv- 
ings to attain some ideal or perform some service, 



CHAPTER XV 


261 


unless my heart and will are wholly captivated, there 
will be some self-assertion, and probably a great deal. 
That is why the consciously virtuous person is dis- 
agreeable. It is not virtue that can save the world 
or any one in it, but love. And love is not at our 
command. We cannot generate it from within our- 
selves. We can win it only by surrender to it. The 
“ strong man armed ” of our self-complacency is 
secure until the “ stronger than he ” cometh (67. 
Luke xi, 21 and 22). There will be no full surrender 
except to the perfect manifestation of perfect love, that 
is to say to Jesus Christ come in the flesh. But He 
makes Himself known in fact in other ways besides 
His incarnate life; so far as it is to the Divine Self- 
Utterance or Word in truth or beauty or goodness 
that men open their hearts, their works are done 
through “ the grace of Jesus Christ and the Inspira- 
tion of His Spirit ”. That may be a real surrender, 
but not complete; therefore those works, while not 
mere sins, yet have some of “ the nature of sin ” 
about them. 

We cannot too strongly or harshly drive this 
truth into our souls, however eager we may be to 
trace “ the grace of Jesus Christ ” in others, even 
in atheists. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. All 
fruit that I ever bear or can bear comes wholly from 
His life within me. No particle of it is mine as distinct 
from His. There is, no doubt, some part of His whole 
purpose that He would accomplish through me; that 
is my work, my fruit, in the sense that I, and not 
another, am the channel of His life for this end; but 
in no other sense. Whatever has its ultimate origin in 
myself is sin : “ O God, forasmuch as without thee 
we are not able to please thee, mercifully grant that 
thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our 
hearts, through Jesus Christ our Lord ”. 

If a man abide not in me , he was cast outside as the 
branch , and was withered; and they gather them and 



262 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

into the fire they cast them and they are burned . The 
violent change of tense — an idiom that cannot be 
reproduced in good English but which is repeated in 
this translation for the challenge which it offers — 
indicates the fact that the penalty and the severance 
from Christ are simultaneous, for indeed they are 
identical. It is not said that if we do not abide in 
Christ we shall subsequently or ultimately be cast 
out of the vineyard on to the fire; what is said is that 
our failure to abide in Him is, there and then, that 
rejection and destruction. As the labourers gather 
the branches that are broken off and dried up, and toss 
them out to be burnt, so is already the lot of any 
disciple who fails to abide in his Lord. The devout 
Jews who heard the words were familiar with the 
passage which suggested them. Ezekiel had pointed 
out that the wood of the vine is useless, and is 
“ given to the fire for fuel ”, As a channel for the life 
of the vine, the branch has use and bears fruit; sepa- 
rated from the vine it is worthless: “ shall wood be 
taken thereof to make any work? or will men take a 
pin of it to hang any vessel thereon? ” {Ezekiel xv, 2-4). 
So useless is the disciple who has become severed from 
his Lord. 

It need not be so. If ye abide in me and my sayings 
abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will and it shall come to 
pass for you — and ye shall become my disciples. He 
had already said If ye ask anything in my name , I will 
do it (xiv, 13 and 14). To ask in His name is to ask 
as His representative, or in other words, according 
to His will. We acknowledge Him as the source of 
the blessing, so that its bestowal will bind us more 
closely to Him, not make us forgetful of Him; and 
as what is asked is what He already desires to give, 
the gift follows upon the fulfilment of this condition. 
Here we are taught how the condition may be fulfilled. 
How can I, in practice, ask in Christ’s name or as 
His representative? Only if I am abiding in Him 



CHAPTER XV 


263 

and His sayings abide in me. It is through His sayings 
that this mutual indwelling is effected. We do well 
to remember that our Lord is much more than a 
teacher. But a teacher He is; and it is through 
His teaching that our minds receive His mind so that 
we may become one with Him and He with us. In one 
sense this is itself the culmination and fruit of dis- 
cipleship; it is so, if the mutual indwelling is complete. 
That perfection is not reached on earth, and the reward 
of discipleship is to become more fully disciples, as 
we receive of His fulness and grace for grace (i, 1 6). 

Inserted into this sequence of thought is a paren- 
thesis, lest we should for a moment suppose that it 
is possible to ask in Christ’s name for the satisfaction 
of our own desires; all that we can ask in His name 
is that we may really do His will and bear fruit for 
the Lord of the vineyard. We ask whatsoever we will ; 
but being in Christ our will must be for the glory of 
God and the accomplishment of His purpose. There- 
fore the coming to pass of what we ask is the glorifica- 
tion of God and the bearing of abundant fruit; It shall 
come to pass for you: in this was glorified my Father , 
your bearing fruit in abundance. Our fruitfulness is 
due to God’s activity released or called forth by our 
prayer. 

Here we have a searching test of our prayer-life^ 
Is it fruitful — in the effectiveness of our intercessions 
or our own growth in grace? If not, it is because 
we are not pr-aying in His name; and that, again, is 
because we are not abiding in Him nor His sayings 
in us. If we really so abide, we shall not only desire 
His will to be done rather than what would have been 
our own, but we shall know what it is. So often we 
get far enough to prefer His will to ours in principle; 
but we are not in communion with Him close enough 
to avoid insisting upon our judgement of what His will 
must be — like Peter at Caesarea Philippi or at the 
feet-washing. We will follow Him. . . . But surely 



264 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

He does not mean to go that way. ... It leads to 
certain failure. It leads to a Cross. 

There is a most subtle danger of a revival of self- 
will in the very act of surrendering it. The only 
safeguard is to abide in Him in still closer communion, 
still deeper love — love like His. 

As the Father loved me I also loved you . Again we 
find the doctrine of mediation, but for the first time 
in terms of love. It is a perfect love that has been 
given to us; it is nothing less than the love which 
unites the Father and the Son in the very Godhead 
itself, and which is the Holy Spirit. This perfect love 
is “ bestowed upon us ” through Christ. Abide in 
the love that is mine. The words mean much more 
than “ continue in the shelter of my love for you ” 
(Bernard). The divine love, which is the Holy Ghost, 
is much more than a sheltering protection; rather it 
is a pervasive atmosphere in which we may dwell, 
and which we may breathe, so that it becomes the 
breath of our lives (cf. xx, 22). We are to let that 
love wrap us about, enfolding us in its embrace. How 
do we do this? If ye observe my commandments , ye will 
abide in my love , as I have observed my Father's com- 
mandments and abide in His love. We hold ourselves 
in that love by obedience; and the love is the power 
in which we obey. He had said If ye love me, ye will 
observe my commandments (xiv, 15); now He says 
If ye observe my commandments , ye will abide in my 
love. Love and obedience are two parts of one rela- 
tionship — the relationship of creature to Creator, of 
child to Father, of sinner to Redeemer. Is my obedience 
defective? — let me kindle my love by communion 
with the Lord. Is my love feeble ? Let me deepen 
communion by deliberate obedience. But what kind 
of obedience is it? Are we to “ do ” this, and avoid 
“ doing ” that? No; that is the way of the law and 
its works. Our obedience is to the commandments 
of the Lord, which are — -to -trust God and to love 



CHAPTER XV 


* 265 

Him (1 2 ; cf. vi, 29; xiii, 34; I John iii, 23). 

The pattern once again is the perfect love within 
the Being of God, not this time the love of the Father 
for the Son, but the perfect obedience of the Son to 
the Father and the love which is in that obedience 
expressed and actualised. The divine perfection is 
our model and standard; and all that falls short of it 
is sin ( St . Matthew v, 45 and 48 ; Romans iii, 23). 

* 

The Relation of the Disciples to the Lord 

11-17. u These things have I spoken unto you that the joy which is 
mine may be in you and that your joy may be fulfilled. This is the 
commandment which is mine, that ye love one another as I loved 
you. Greater love than this hath no man, that a man lay down his 
life on behalf of his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do what I 
command you. No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave knoweth 
not what his lord doeth; but you I have called friends, because all 
things which I heard from my Father, I made known to you. Not 
you chose me, but I chose you, and appointed you that ye may go 
your ways and bear fruit, and that your fruit may abide, that what- 
soever ye ask the Father in my name, he may give it you. These 
things I command you, that ye love one another ” 

The joy that is mine: the joy of unbroken communion 
with the Father; the joy of a world by Him redeemed 
from selfishness and mutual destruction to love and 
abundant life; the “joy that was set before Him” 
( Hebrews xii, 2). The promise and hope is not only 
that we may be joyful as our Master is joyful — (my 
joy) — but that joy of the same substance and quality 
as His — the joy which is mine — may be in us. 

Evidently that joy is no external happiness, nor can 
it be produced by any circumstances. It is a state of 
the soul. It is the condition of the soul that is 
filled with love, as joy comes next to love in the 
fruitage of the Spirit (Galatians v, 22. N.B. : that 
catalogue of graces is not a list of “ fruits of the Spirit ” 
but an articulation of the one and indivisible “ fruit 



2 66 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

of the Spirit ” which is the surrender of the soul to 
God under the impulse of His revealed love). The 
joy which is Christ’s can only be known by those who, 
with Him, are obedient to the divine command and 
responsive to the divine teaching. So He gives His 
command and His teaching in order that the joy 
which is His may be in us. 

It is ho alien gift; it is the completion of our own 
and our only true joy — and that your joy may be 
fulfilled. For we too were made in the image of God, 
who is Love. That image in us is distorted and 
defaced; for we are self-centred and not perfect in 
love. Yet we can “ reflect as a mirror the glory of 
the Lord ” (II Corinthians ii, 18); and He who is the 
“ express image ” of God’s substance ( 'Hebrews i, 3) 
is that image which we were created to bear. This 
call, against which our self-centredness rebels, is the 
call to be our real selves. The call to the pain of 
self-sacrifice is also, and more deeply, the call to the 
fulfilment of our joy. 

Corresponding to the joy which is mine is the com- 
mandment which is mine. All His commands are 
gathered up in this. It had been given before (xiii, 
34) in close association with His self-offering to 
death, when He let the traitor go and thereafter in 
symbol broke His Body and gave to the disciples His 
Blood, that is to say His life offered in sacrifice. Now 
He repeats it with the same reference — that ye love 
one another as I loved you. The words which follow 
shew that His love is to be measured by His death. 
Love such as that, love to the point of sacrifice even 
of life, is to be the bond between His disciples. This 
is not a command to all the world, as will appear very 
soon (1 8); nor is it a command concerning the relation 
of Christians to non-Christians. It is the command 
to the Christian fellowship. That fellowship owes its 
existence and quality to the love of Christ. He has 
drawn us, each one, to Himself; our discipleship is 



CHAPTER XV 


267 

His doing, not ours (16); in the fellowship which we 
have, each one, with Him we are in fellowship with 
one another; and this latter fellowship must be the 
sphere or arena of a love such as created it. The life 
of the Vine must be in the branches, making of them 
all a single organism; the Spirit of Christ must be 
in the members, making -them all one body, and that 
body His. 

Do we feel such a bond with our fellow-Chr i stians ? 
Is our fellowship in Christ a reality more profound and 
effective than our membership of our earthly fellow- 
ships — family, school, party, class, nation, race — 
and able in consequence to unite us in love across all 
natural divisions and hostilities? Of course not. And 
the reason is that we do not truly abide in Him. If 
we did, His life of sacrificial love would flow through 
us all and unite us in the most intimate bonds. What 
is called the Oecumenical Movement 1 represents a 
dawning consciousness of this truth. 

That this mutual love of Christians, reproducing 
their Lord’s love for them, is to be measured by His 
death is now made perfectly clear. Greater love than 
this hath no man , that a man lay down his life on behalf 
of his friends. Some have said, is it not greater love 
to die for enemies than for friends? But this over- 
stresses the word friends. It does not here represent 
those who love Him but those whom He loves; the 
saying declares that love has no more complete ex- 
pression than death on behalf of those to whom it is 
directed; the distinction between those who return 
that love and those who do not, does not arise. Love 
unto death is a complete self-giving ; that is what Christ 

* This is the name given to the various enterprises in which the several 
Churches are invited to co-operate, and for the most part do co-operate, 
with the one great exception of the Church of Rome. The two chief enter- 
prises of this sort are the Faith and Order Movement and the Life and 
Work Movement. Roth of these held Conferences — at Edinburgh, and 
Oxford respectively — in Great Britain in 1937. One result of these is an 
attempt to establish a “ World Council of Churches 



268 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

endured for His disciples; that is what Christians must 
be ready to endure for their fellow-Christians. 

Yet that love demands and deserves response. 
When Christ died, it was for those whom He loved; 
the supreme wonder is that it was for those who did 
not (as yet) love Him. “ God commendeth his own 
love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, 
Christ died for us ” (Romans v, 8). But though as 
objects of His love sinners are truly called His friends, 
yet they are not all that this name should mean while 
they are content to remain sinners; if they are to be 
real friends they must obey the commands: Ye are 
my friends if ye do what I command you . So once more 
love and obedience are brought together as in xiv, 
15 and 21 and xv, 10. But now we learn something 
more about the quality of our obedience. 

The use of the word friends has carried the thought 
on from the relation of the disciples to one another to 
their relation with their Lord, in which their relation 
to one another is grounded. No longer do I call you 
slaves , for the slave knoweth not what his lord doeth ; 
hut you I have called friends , because all things which 1 
heard from my Father , I made known to you. To St. 
Paul this seemed to be the very essence of the transition 
from the Pharisaic Judaism in which he was brought 
up to faith in God through Jesus Christ: “ Ye re- 
ceived not the spirit of slavery again unto fear; but 
ye received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry 
Abba, Father ” (. Romans viii, 1 5). What is the spirit 
of slavery? The slave, who is only a slave, and not 
also a friend as some slaves were, has his orders and 
obeys them, perhaps hoping for reward if he does this 
well, certainly fearing punishment if he does it ill 
or not at all. He does not care for the feelings of his 
master. His only concern is what his master may do 
to him. Such seems to St. Paul, looking back, to 
have been his state as a Pharisee. (No doubt like 
all persons who have suffered sudden conversion he 



CHAPTER XV 269 

exaggerates the remoteness of his former from his 
latter state; we may be quite sure that Saul of Tarsus 
had some quite real love of God in his heart.) But 
the disclosure, in the life and death of Jesus, of what 
God’s love for us really is had won from him a response 
which makes him feel no longer like a slave before 
his master but like a child before his father. He no 
longer thinks — “ this is the command of God which 
I must obey ”, but — “ this is God my Father whom I 
wish to please The difference is made by the com- 
pleteness with which the mind and heart of the Father 
are disclosed to us in Christ — all things which I heard 
from my Father I made known to you. We are taken 
into confidence; we are enabled to understand; and 
what we understand is a wisdom and a love to which 
we long to trust ourselves in overflowing gratitude and 
whole-hearted surrender. 

Our action is all response; all initiative is with 
the Lord: Not ye chose me, but I chose you. That is 
fundamental. “ Herein is love, not that we loved 
God, but that he loved us ” (I John iv, 10). Those of 
us who were baptised as infants are without excuse if 
we forget this. Our being Christians is no doing of 
ours, any more than our being civilised; it is something 
done to us and for us, not by us, though we have to 
make appropriate response in the form of obedience 
prompted by love. 

I chose you and appointed you that ye may go your 
ways and bear fruit and that your fruit may abide. We 
were chosen first and foremost for fellowship with 
Christ — “ that they might be with him ” {St. Mark 
iii, 14); that is our first duty, to abide in Him. But 
He chose us also to send us forth as His witnesses — 
“ and that he might send them forth to make the 
proclamation ” (St. Mark , ibid.). The word which I 
have translated go your ways is that which at the end of 
the story of the raising of Lazarus I translated (with 
Bernard) go home (xi, 44). It suggests going about 


270 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

one’s business, whatever that may be. It is in doing 
that that we are to bear fruit , fruit that will abide. 
A real Christian, who abides in Christ and Christ in 
him, exerts an influence among his companions at 
work or play, in mine or shop or factory or directors’ 
meeting or Parliament, that nothing effaces. But 
there is more still than this. Such a man becomes a 
channel through whom the love of God may flow in 
blessing wheresoever he directs his attention — and 
that whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name, he may 
give it you. The range of a Christian’s fruitful activity 
is far greater through his prayer, that is the direction 
of his will, surrendered as it is to God, than through 
his conduct or direct influence. This is true so far, 
and only so far, as he prays in the name of Christ — 
that is (as we saw) as His representative; and this we 
can do only if we abide in Him and His sayings abide 
in us (7). 

Those who do this are a family united in a love 
which flows through them all, a community of love. 
So once more the summary is given: These things 1 
command you, that ye (may) love one another. To insert 
that word may is to exaggerate the suggestion of pur- 
pose and consequence; yet that suggestion is there. 
Mutual love is the content of the command; it is also 
the result of obeying it. For the command is also 
Abide in me. 

Abide in me ; Love one another: these are not two 
things, but one thing with two aspects, whereof the 
former is the occasion of the latter. To do this is 
veritably to participate in the Holy Communion. 

* 

The Relation of the Disciples to the World 

xv, 18-xvi, 4. “ If the world hate you, recognise that it hath hated 
me before you. If ye were from the world, the world would love 
its own. But because ye are not from the world, but I chose you 



CHAPTER XV 


271 


out from the world, therefore the world hateth you. Be mindful of 
the word which I said to you 6 The slave is not greater than his lord 
If they persecuted me, you also will they persecute; if they observed 
my word, yours also will they observe. But all these things they 
will do to you for my Name’s sake, because they know not him that 
sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not 
have had sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. He that 
hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them 
works which no one else did, they would not have had sin; but 
as it is they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. 
But that the word written in their law may be fulfilled — They 
hated me without cause. When the Comforter cometh, whom I 
will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who pro- 
ceeded from the Father, he shall bear witness concerning me; and 
ye also bear witness because from the beginning ye are with me. 
These things have I spoken to you that ye be not overthrown. They 
will excommunicate you; indeed there cometh an hour when who- 
soever killeth you will think he offers worship to God. And these 
things will they do because they did not recognise the Father nor 
me. But these things have I spoken to you that, when their hour 
cometh, ye may be mindful of them, that I myself told you.” 

If the world hate you . They would soon know 
whether it did or not. That heathen world was bound 
to hate the infant Church which stood for principles 
so radically opposed to its own. We live in a country 
where for many generations the Gospel and the faith 
which it calls forth have influenced the lives and 
thoughts of men. It is possible that even complete 
loyalty to Christ would not win its hatred; and 
certainly we must not suppose that in such a country 
ecclesiastical persons or assemblies are more sure to 
be true to the principles of Christ than are secular 
persons and assemblies discharging their proper 
responsibilities. Yet that disciple or that Church, 
which finds that all men speak well of him or of it, has 
cause for anxiety. 44 The kingdom of this world ” is 
not yet become 44 the kingdom of our Lord and of 
His Christ ” ( [Revelation xi, 15) even in lands called 
Christian. The true disciple still offers to the world 
a challenge, which it will take up if his faithfulness 
is active. Not all that the world hates is good 


272 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Christianity; but it does hate good Christianity and 
always will. 

That hatred of the world is hard to face. The world 
is the most dangerous of the three great enemies. 
In our conflict with the flesh and the devil the world 
itself in a civilised country gives us some support. 
But against the world we must stand alone with our 
fellow-Christians. If we waver, it must steady us to 
recognise that the world hated our Master before us. 
It is natural rather than strange that we should stand 
where He stood, if we abide in Him; and that sets 
us on the other side of a strongly marked dividing line 
running between us and the world. 

If ye were from the world , the world would love its 
own. It is a question of affinity or the lack of it — not 
of reasoned attachment or alienation. From the world ; 
the phrase suggests a character due to origin (cf. 
viii, 23). Are we not from the world? Is not that 
our origin, and do not our characters correspond? 
Yes — far too largely. But that is not the distinctive 
and most fundamental fact about us if we are disciples 
at all. Because ye are not from the world , but I chose you 
out from the world: the phrase from the world is re- 
peated, but with a difference. Coupled with the verb 
chose out it no longer represents origin and growth in 
congruity with that origin, but a place of departure 
and consequent separation. This is, in part, the 
occasion of the hate which the world feels. It would 
not hate angels for being angelic; but it does hate 
men for being Christians. It grudges them their 
new character; it is tormented by their peace; it is 
infuriated by their joy. They belong to it by nature; 
and they have found in a place where “ no sane 
man ” 1 would look for it exactly what the world 
vainly desires ; they must be impostors and deceivers 
(vii, 12; cf. II Corinthians vi, 8). The world, with its 
serious work to do, has no patience with such char- 

1 See Robert Browning’s Cleon 7 the last line. 



CHAPTER XV 


273 

latans. So we must be mindful of His saying (xiii, 1 6) 
“ The slave is not greater than his lord When spoken 
earlier it had conveyed an exhortation to aim at a 
humility corresponding to that of the Lord who 
washed His disciples’ feet; here it conveys a warning 
to expect and accept from the world no better treat- 
ment than it gave to their Lord — If they -persecuted 
me, you also will they persecute. But there is comfort 
too in the obverse of this — If they observed my word, 
yours also will they observe. In any case, whatever 
befalls the disciple comes upon him because, and in 
so far as, he is the representative of his Master: all 
these things they will do to you for my Name's sake, 
because they know not him that sent me. The disciple 
represents Christ: Christ represents the Father. If 
the world could understand that the mission of Christ 
is divine, it would not persecute His representatives. 
The word know is that which stands for scientific 
knowledge or accurate information, not that which 
stands for personal acquaintance; they know not him 
that sent me therefore means “ they know not that I 
came forth from the Father ” (see xvi, 28). To 
recognise this, for almost any reason, is the first stage 
of Christian faith; for it leads to reverent attention to 
the Lord and thus at length to that recognition of 
Him (xiv, 9) which culminates in the vision of the 
Father in and through Him, and thus again to true 
knowledge of the Father Himself which is eternal 
life (xvii, 3 — where the word for know is that signi- 
fying personal acquaintance). 

The coming of the Lord, of which the purpose is 
always and only to save men from sin, has the inevit- 
able result of revealing their sin, and even intensifying 
it if they refuse to be won from it. If I had not come 
and spoken to them , they would not have had sin, but as it 
is they have no excuse for their sin. The teaching of the 
Lord has the same effect as the Law, which also was 
from God; it revealed to the dormant conscience the 



274 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

sin that was already there, and it provoked the uncon- 
verted will to vigorous obstinacy in its sin ( Romans 
vii, 7-12). Jews who were loyal to their tradition, the 
noblest religious tradition in the world, might still be 
involved in what theologians call “ material sin ” so 
far as that tradition was less than the perfect will of 
God; but they were not involved in “ formal sin ”, 
which is deliberate action in opposition to that will 
made known. Now that it is made known and they 
refuse it, the sin becomes inexcusable. For antagonism 
to Christ is antagonism to God: he that hateth me 
hateth my Father also. 

Perhaps it may be said that they were still not 
guilty of “ formal sin ”, for that is defiance of con- 
science. But there is a sin which may not be in that 
sense “ formal sin ” and yet involves guilt as only 
“ formal sin ” is generally supposed to do. This 
deeper sin is the sin of the darkened conscience (St. 
Matthew vi, 23), which prevents men from seeing 
goodness when it is before their eyes. If I had not done 
.among them the works which no one else did , they would 
not have had sin ; but as it is they have both seen and 
hated both me and my Father. These works, wherein 
power is active in manifest subjection to love, are 
“ signs ” of the divine presence and activity in Him. 
Failure to read those signs argues a profound darken- 
ing of the conscience. At one time His enemies had 
said of such a work — a plainly good work — that it 
was done by diabolic power; and He had answered 
that this argued such insensitiveness to the very Spirit 
of Holiness as to put him who had sunk to it outside 
the reach of the divine forgiveness (St. Matthew xii, 
22-32). Pure goodness has been in action before 
their eyes, and they have repudiated it. There was 
never a more utterly gross delusion than that “ We 
needs must love the highest when we see it ”, unless 
by “ see it ” we understand “ see it for what it is ”. 
They have both seen and hated both me and my Father. 



CHAPTER XV 


2 75 

What more or worse can be said? Yet it is only the 
extreme form of a spiritual reality common enough 
and recognised by the Psalmists ( Psalms xxxv, 1 9 and 
lxix, 4). 1 We shall not, perhaps, ever allow ourselves 
to hate Christ and His Cross as historically presented ; 
we very easily hate His call to the Cross when it comes 
to ourselves to-day. 

Suddenly, as though this terrible thought of hating 
the Lord and His Father had recalled the Holy Spirit 
against whom that hatred is blasphemy, the Person of 
the Comforter is introduced. The world in its blind 
sin may persecute and hate; but the Spirit will bear 
His own witness. When the Comforter cometh , the 
Spirit of Truth who froceedeth from the Father , whom I 
will send to you from the Father , he shall bear witness 
concerning me. 

The Son sends the Comforter. The coming of the 
Holy Spirit in power is due to the action of the Son 
in revealing the love of the Father, and (as we shall 
see more clearly) one way of summarising the purpose 
of Christ’s coming is to say that He came in order 
that the Spirit might come. That inward power of 
God converting desire itself is a result of the dis- 
closure of the love of God and the response which it 
wins. So the Son is the cause of the Spirit’s coming; 
He sends Him. Yet it is no less true that the Spirit 
froceedeth from the Father ; because the Father is infinite 
love the personal activity of that love ever goes forth. 
Not only in Jesus Christ does the Spirit of Truth touch 
the hearts of men. He spoke to and through Plato, 
as the early Christian Fathers fully recognised; and 
has spoken through many a seer, poet and prophet 
both within and outside the Canon of Holy Scripture. 
Wherever there is response in the hearts of men to the 
manifested glory of God, whether that manifestation 
be in nature or in history, there the Spirit of Truth is 

1 “ They that hate me without a cause ” (cf. cix, 3, “ For the love 
that I had unto them, lo, they take now my contrary part ”). 



2 76 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

at work. He inspires all Science and all Art, and speaks 
in the conscience of the heathen child. Yet it is also 
true that the Son sends Him. For only in the Word 
made flesh is the glory of God truly displayed. We 
beheld his glory (i, 14); that is the condition of receiv- 
ing the Holy Spirit in His power. He “ proceedeth 
from the Father and (or through) the Son ”. 

The Spirit of Truth — as contrasted with the false 
prejudice which led the Jews to hate the highest when 
they saw it. The Gospel is not a call to feed the soul 
on lofty ideals which may have no counterpart in 
reality. It is the proclamation of the truth about God 
and the world. Every sincere seeker after truth is 
entitled to claim Christ’s authority for saying that he 
is upheld by the Holy Spirit; for that is implied in 
this title the Spirit of truth. But if he is sincere he 
will also recognise that he cannot claim that authority 
unless he also acknowledges that the primary concern 
of the Spirit of truth is to bear witness concerning Jesus 
Christ. For He is the very truth of God, the Eternal 
Word or self-utterance of the Father. 

He shall bear witness concerning me; and ye also bear 
witness. Co- witnesses with the Holy Ghost: that is 
the calling of Christian disciples; that is our calling. 
St. Peter would accept that august position : “ We 
are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy 
Ghost whom God hath given to them that obey him ” 
(Acts v, 32). The first disciples were qualified for 
this by their companionship with the Lord from the 
first days of the ministry : ye also bear witness, because 
from the beginning ye are with me. 

We were baptised in infancy; we were (by God’s 
great mercy and election) brought up in Christian 
homes. Not from the beginning of His ministry, 
but from the beginning of our lives, we are with Him. 
What is our witness worth? Does it qualify us to be 
co-witnesses with the Holy Ghost? 

These things have I spoken unto you that ye be not 



CHAPTER XVI, 1-4 277 

overthrown. The coming persecution would be a very 
severe trial to faith, not only because it would test 
courage and men might deny their allegiance to the 
Lord from weakness and cowardice, but also because 
it is hard to believe that a cause is truly God’s when 
it seems to meet with no success, and all power is on 
the other side. Overthrown : it is notoriously hard to 
represent in English the Greek word translated in the 
Authorised Version “ offended ” and in the Revised 
“made to stumble it stands for a failure due to 
obstacles put in the way, as contrasted with failure 
due to disloyalty. If the disciples can remember these 
things — the Lord’s prediction of the persecution and, 
no less, His promise of the Comforter, they will find 
in them the needed safeguard. 

They will excommunicate you; the loyal disciple will 
be attacked through his religious tradition and associa- 
tion. He will have to maintain his constancy in face of 
the assurance of his fellows that he is pursuing a course 
hateful to God. So sure of this will they be that 
whosoever killeth you will think he offers worship to 
God . They will not only think that in persecuting 
the disciples they are serving God’s purpose in the 
world, but even that they are therein offering worship ; 
the execution will be carried out in the spirit of a 
ritual sacrifice. It is this religious conscientiousness 
of the persecutor which makes him so relentless, and 
also tests so searchingly the faith of his victim. And 
these things will they do because they did not recognise 
the Father nor me. The revelation was offered, but 
they were blind to it. They did not “ behold His 
glory”. In Christ the Father was manifested, but 
they could not recognise either the Father so mani- 
fested or the Son as manifesting Him. 

But these things have I spoken to you that , when their 
hour cometh , ye may be mindful of them , that I myself 
told you. Their hour: the hour of. their fulfilment. 
Then the disciples would look back and say, “ This is 



278 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

what He told us to expect; His word is fulfilled 
Thus an experience otherwise calculated to assault 
faith from without and to undermine it from beneath, 
will be converted into an evidence and support of 
faith by the realisation that it is a fulfilment of the 
Lord’s own word. 



CHAPTER XVI 


(i) The Departure of the Lord and the 
Coming of the Comforter 

5-7. “ These things I did not tell you from the beginning because I 
was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me, and none 
of you asketh me. Whither goest thou? But because I have said 
these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart. But I tell you 
the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away. For if I go not 
away, the Comforter will not come to you, but if I depart I will 
send him to you.” 

While the Lord was with them there was no need to 
speak of these things — persecution for His Name’s 
sake, and the coming of the Comforter. For in those 
days any persecution that arose was directed against 
Himself, not against them; and while He was with 
them, the Comforter would not come (7). But now 
He is leaving them so far as concerns visible presence, 
and both warning and promise are in place. 

I go my way to him that sent me. The words are 
repeated from vii, 33, but there they follow the saying 
Yet a little while I am with you. Here, for that phrase 
the word Now is substituted. The sacrifice which is 
at once the separation of death and the perfecting of 
union with the Father is at hand. It is the supreme 
moment of His life and ministry; yet the disciples are 
not thinking of what it means for Him; their thoughts 
are all of what it means for themselves. None of you 
asketh me , “ Whither goest thou? ” St. Peter had asked 
precisely that, when the Lord had said He was going 
to a place where they could not follow (xiii, 36); there 
self-concern prompted the question; here it stifles it. 
The Lord has now told them the goal of His journey 
— the Father; but instead of wondering what the joy 



280 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

of that attainment must be, they are brooding over 
their own imminent loss and the persecutions which 
they have been warned to expect: Because I have said 
these things to you , sorrow hath filled your heart. 

But I tell you the truth ; it is expedient for you that 
I go away. Even from the standpoint of their own 
interest they should rejoice rather than feel sorrow: 
it is expedient for you that I go away. How could that 
possibly be true? We look back and think that there 
was never any privilege like theirs. They had walked 
with Him in the corn-fields, and sat with Him in the 
boat upon the lake ; they had supped with Him among 
His friends. What greater privilege could there ever 
be? Yes — it was a supreme privilege. But what 
became of that faith which relied upon the Lord as 
an external Presence to whom they could turn at every 
moment of doubt or need? When the crisis came it 
all went to pieces. “ They all left him and fled ” 
(St. Mark xiv, 50). Simon Peter did indeed follow — 
“ afar off ” (St. Mark xiv, 54) — to the place where 
he would stand and warm himself, and say “ I know 
not this man ” (St. Mark xiv, 71). Yet a few weeks 
later these same men are found confronting the rulers 
of their nation with a calm and unruffled courage, 
and “ rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer 
dishonour for the Name ” (Acts v, 41; cf. also (e.g.) 
v, 27-32). What explains the transformation? Of 
course it is that of which the Lord here speaks; 
He has withdrawn from them as a visible, external 
Presence, to return in the Person of the Spirit as the 
very breath of their lives (see xx, 22). 

This hard saying states in its most signal instance 
the fundamental principle of true education. The task 
of the teacher is to prepare the pupil for the time of 
separation, which must come, so that the pupil may 
find within himself such resources as enable him to 
follow the direction in which the teacher has started 
him without any further aid. It is not only that the 



CHAPTER XVI 


281 


time of separation must come; it is a good thing that 
it should come, for otherwise that inward strength, 
which it is the purpose of education to develop, will 
never be exercised. 

We tend to think of that inward strength as our 
own, and of our trust in it as self-reliance. But it is 
not our own. Even apart from religion, the inner 
quality in which we place our trust is the deposit of 
the tradition in which we were brought up, of the 
influence of parents and teachers. We could not 
civilise ourselves. If we had been carried off in infancy 
to live among savages, we should be savages now. 
“ What hast thou that thou didst not receive? ” 
(/ Corinthians iv, 7). Of all the boons of civilisa- 
tion the giver is God; and we lose both some of 
their value, and an added ground for faith, if we 
forget this. 

In the spiritual life it is of urgent importance that 
we remember from whom our strength comes — the 
Holy Spirit, the “ Giver of Life ”. He is the Spirit 
of Christ, whom disciples receive through their com- 
panionship with Christ. Christ is therefore in that 
sense the source or sender of the Spirit. He with- 
draws His visible presence; but He does not leave us 
desolate (xiv, 18); on the contrary, He makes our 
loss into, a blessing. If I go not away , the Comforter 
will not come to you , hut if I depart I will send him to you. 

% 

(2) The Comforter and the World 

8- II. u And when he is come he will convict the world in respect of 
sin and of righteousness and of judgment: of sin, in that they 
believe not on me; and of righteousness in that to the Father I go 
my way and no longer do ye take note of me; and of judgment in 
that the prince of this world hath been judged.” 

The Comforter has a relationship to the world as 
well as to the disciple$ 5 and this is mentioned briefly so 



282 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

that the way may be clear for the description of His 
work among the disciples, upon which most emphasis 
is to be laid. But though the reference to His task 
for the world is brief it is almost infinitely pregnant. 
As we are still in large measure “ of the world ” and 
not yet wholly disciples, it is well for us to draw out 
the meaning of these close-packed phrases. 

He will convict the world. The word translated 
convict means primarily to cross-examine with a view 
to refutation or conviction, or to bring forward evi- 
dence that proves guilt. (The corresponding noun is 
used in Hebrews xi, i, where it is said that “ faith is 
the testing of things not seen ”, though there the sug- 
gestion is that the unseen forces will meet the test.) 
The Comforter will bring evidence to prove the world 
wrong in certain respects. What respects are these? 
— the three matters most important to man’s life, 
sin, righteousness and judgement. What then is the 
evidence that He will bring? In respect of sin, it 
is that men do not believe on Christ; in respect of 
righteousness, it is that Christ goes to the Father; in 
respect of judgement, it is that in the Life and Death of 
Christ the Prince of this world is under judgement. 

We may interpret this at two levels — the more 
obvious and the more profound. Men’s failure to 
believe on Christ is proof of the world’s sin ; . Christ’s 
going to the Father is proof of His righteousness; 
and the judgement upon the Prince of this world is 
proof that judgement is operative. All this is true and 
important; but it does not begin to satisfy the mean- 
ing of the words used; and after all it was not by any 
means evident that the Prince of this world was under 
judgement in the Passion of Christ. 

Let us by all means take to ourselves the lessons 
of this more obvious interpretation. Our failure to 
believe — whether absolute or partial — is indeed 
proof of sin in us, and should stir us to a penitent 
longing for fuller faith. The Ascension of Christ is 



CHAPTER XYI 


283 

indeed a seal set on His life as a manifestation of 
righteousness, and we may learn from Him what 
righteousness really is. The judgement of the Prince 
of this world is indeed an instance of that divine 
judgement of whose reality our moral torpor suggests 
doubt, and as we reflect upon it we can stimulate our 
own anticipation of that judgement to the quickening 
of our sluggish consciences. This would be much; 
but it is the lesser part of what the words of the Lord 
convey. 

He will convict the world: He will prove the world 
wrong — and us with the world so far as we share 
the outlook of the world — in respect of sin , and of 
righteousness , and of judgement. The world has to learn 
that its very conception of these things is all wrong. 
If it tries to avoid sin or to seek righteousness, it does 
not avoid or seek the right things ; if it fears or pre- 
pares for judgement, it does not fear or prepare for the 
right thing. 

Of sin , in that they believe not on me. Their un- 
belief is, so to speak, brought into court, not merely as 
evidence that they are sinful, but as proof that they 
are wrong in their idea of sin. 

We tend to think of sin as consisting of acts which 
are done in defiance of conscience or are, whether we 
know it or not, contrary to God’s command. Some 
people even say that so long as a man follows his 
conscience he cannot be committing sin. (The theo- 
logian would say that he is certainly not committing 
“ formal sin ” but he may be committing “ material 
sin ”.) Certainly a man should follow his conscience; 
but that is not the whole of his duty. Still more 
important is it to enlighten conscience itself, lest 
“ the light that is in us be darkness ” {St. Matthew vi, 
23). The greatest crimes in history have been per- 
petrated at the bidding of conscience — such as the 
Spanish Inquisition. The disciples were warned to 
expect a time when whosoever killeth you will think 



284 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

that he is offering worship to God (2). A sin committed 
against the light is more wicked than another; the 
man who does it is more guilty. But sin is something 
much wider and deeper than guilt. Everything 
which is other than God would have it be is sin. 
“ All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ” 
( 'Romans iii, 23); that is the definition of sin — to fall 
short of the glory of God! It is not enough that 
we should be as good as the people about us; nothing 
is enough except that we should be as good as God — 
“ Ye therefore shall be perfect as your heavenly Father 
is perfect ” {St. Matthew v, 48). But we shall not set 
ourselves that standard, to say nothing of attaining 
it, if we are left to our own resources. And we do not 
know what the perfection of God is until we have 
seen it in Christ. Unless we believe on Him we are 
bound to be wrong in our whole idea about sin; for 
apart from that faith we have neither the stimulus nor 
the capacity to frame the true standard. 

So the world’s failure to believe on Christ is the 
proof that the world is wrong in its conception of what 
sin is. Here the world is likely to protest. “ A man 
cannot help his beliefs ”, they say; “ he is responsible 
for acting up to them but he is not answerable for 
what does or does not seem to be true.” Is that so? 
When a proposition is made to a man, he exercises 
his judgement to the best of his ability; but is that 
“ best ” as good as it might have been? If it is lack- 
ing in some sensitiveness which a more careful dis- 
cipline of mind would have supplied, he is responsible 
for his error even though he did his best at the 
moment. This principle is both clearer and more 
important in proportion as the matter presented con- 
cerns more intimately our moral and spiritual life. 
A high ideal may be presented to a man and he con- 
siders whether or not he shall accept it for the guidance 
of his life. His answer must depend on his character. 
He may give the truest and wisest answer of which he 



CHAPTER XVI 


285 

is then capable ; but if he has allowed himself to settle 
down to a selfish outlook or to materialist standards, 
this will affect his judgement. He will reject the ideal 
in perfect sincerity; but that sincerity is not so much 
a justification of his conduct as a measure of his sin. 

So, supremely, the divine revelation in Christ 
operates in judgement upon those to whom it is 
offered (iii, 19). Can men see in the perfect self- 
sacrifice of Christ the power and wisdom of God? If 
so, they are in the way of salvation ; if not, they are on 
the way of perdition. “ The word of the Cross is 
to them that are perishing foolishness; but unto us 
which are being saved it is the power of God. . . . We 
proclaim a Messiah on a cross, to Jews a scandal and 
to Gentiles an absurdity, but to those who are called, 
a Messiah who is God’s power and God’s wisdom ” 
(I Corinthians i, x 8, 23, 24). 

If then we fail to commit ourselves in trust to 
Christ when His revelation is before us, it proves not 
only that we are sinful, but that we are wrong in our 
conception of sin. For if only we could realise that, 
inasmuch as God is Love, the essence of sin is love’s 
opposite, that is to say, self-centredness, our under- 
standing of this would impel us to cast ourselves upon 
the divine love which alone can win us from our 
evil state. We are not impelled to that trust, because 
we wrongly diagnose our disease. We try to cure our 
symptoms — our habits of lying, or cheating, or 
resentment, or envy, or contempt, or impurity — but 
we leave the disease itself alone. But the disease is 
that we are self-centred, not God-centred; the cure 
for that is faith; if we do not at least seek after faith, 
it proves that we have not understood the nature of 
our trouble: if we knew our sickness, we should know 
our need of the physician. 

Of righteousness , in that to the Father I go my way 
and no longer do ye take note of me. The world’s notion 
of righteousness is wrong in the same way as its 



286 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

notion of sin. The world admires and approves its 
honourable and successful men; and that is right 
enough. But real sacrifice for higher than material 
or patriotic causes it regards with anxiety and alarm. 
Even if we can conceive that for ourselves such sacrifice 
would be righteous, we show how little its claim has 
gripped us when we recall how we shrink from com- 
mending that same claim to our neighbours. We do 
not believe in any radical self-sacrifice enough to 
recommend it to our friends, even when we might 
follow that course ourselves. And when the course 
in question involves defiance of the State, and the 
disgrace of imprisonment or a criminal’s execution, we 
regard it as fanatical. 

The Lord was about to suffer that disgrace. In the 
eyes of the worldly-wise He was behaving foolishly; 
He was cutting short a career of great usefulness, 
which He could easily have continued; His attitude 
was quixotic. So an observer by no means cynical 
might say. But that observer and the world repre- 
sented by him would be missing the real truth of the 
situation. The appearance of a criminal’s execution 
and of the untimely collapse of His cause is super- 
ficial only: the reality is that to the Father I go my 
way and no longer do ye take note of me. 

To the Father I go my way: this is the order of words 
in the original. Not to the felon’s grave, but to the 
Father ; not under compulsion of force, but I go my 
way. This complete abandonment to the will of God 
is the real righteousness, and its issue is not the misery 
of humiliation but “ the joy that was set before Him ” 
{Hebrews xii, 2). 

No longer do ye take note of me: the word translated 
take note of is that which is used of the people taking 
note of the miracles (vi, 2) and of the believer taking 
no note of death (viii, 51). It is used of physical as 
distinguished from spiritual vision; in verses 16-19 
the contrast is emphatic; and it is used of such 



CHAPTER XVI 287 

physical “ seeing ” as involves attention. While the 
Lord was with them in the flesh, of course the dis- 
ciples watched and took note of His every word and 
action. It might easily seem that they depended 
entirely on His outward presence among them. “ If 
He be removed ”, the world might well say, “ His 
cause will collapse But it is part of the proof of 
righteousness in that Life which the world condemned, 
that disciples, who can take note of Him no longer, 
are disciples still. The Spirit, pointing out that what 
the world thought death and failure is -really victory 
and fulfilment, and that a discipleship which began 
as external companionship should persist as spiritual 
agency, exhibits the true nature of righteousness — 
not the punctual fulfilment of contracts (though that 
also is righteous) but total self-commitment to the 
righteous Father (xvii, 2 5). 

Of judgement in that the prince of this world hath 
been judged. If men’s conception of sin and of right- 
eousness needs to be deepened, quite equally is this 
true of their thought of judgement. We tend to think 
of the Divine Judgement as being the infliction upon 
us by an irresistible Despot of penalties, not growing 
out of our characters and deeds, but imposed from 
without. All through this Gospel we have been 
learning that this is not the true account of Judgement; 
see especially iii, 19 and the passages collected in the 
comment upon it. The Divine Judgement is the 
verdict upon us which consists in our reaction to the 
light (iii, 1 9) when it is offered to us ; by that reaction 
we are stamped as sons of light (xii, 36) or as children 
of darkness. If we love the darkness rather than the 
light (iii, 19) there is nothing more or worse to be 
done to us. With Judas we go out from the Light of 
the world into the night (xiii, 30). 

The world thought that it was judging Christ 
when Caiaphas rent his clothes, and the people shouted 
“ He is worthy of death ”, and Pilate gave sentence 



-288 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

as they desired. But we know that it was they, and 
not He, upon whom sentence was then passed. His- 
tory has vindicated His claim that in rejecting Him 
the Prince of this world was already judged. The 
Spirit points to this reversal and by means of it teaches 
us how wrong our own idea of judgement is. 

How dread a Companion and Guide, then, is this 
Comforter! We are distressed about some special 
fault, and ask His aid to overcome it; whereupon He 
tells us that our real trouble is our self-complacence 
and self-reliance, and if it is His help that we seek, He 
will rouse us from these. But we do not want that 
at all! Indeed our chief reason for wanting to over- 
come that special fault was that it disturbed our self- 
complacence, which we hoped, after a little moral 
effort, to enjoy once more. Or we seek His aid in 
living according to our standard of righteousness 
and are told that this standard is hardly worth striv- 
ing after: only the total committal of “ ourselves, 
our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and 
lively sacrifice ” is real righteousness. Or we turn 
to Him to be our Paraclete, our Advocate, in the 
judgement; and He tells us that we are judged 
already by our steady preference of our way to 
God’s. . _ ^ ‘ 

When we pray “ Come, Holy Ghost, our souls 
inspire ”, we had better know what we are about. 
He will not carry us to easy triumphs and gratifying 
successes; more probably He will set us to some task 
for God in the full intention that we shall fail, so 
that others, learning wisdom by our failure, may carry 
the good cause forward. He may take us through 
loneliness, desertion by friends, apparent desertion 
even by God; that was the way Christ went to the 
Father. He may drive us into the wilderness to be 
tempted of the devil. He may lead us from the 
Mount of Transfiguration (if He ever lets us climb 
it) to the hill that is called the Place of a Skull. For 



CHAPTER XVI 289 

if we invoke Him, it must be to help us in doing God’s 
will, not ours. We cannot call upon the 

Creator Spirit, by whose aid 

The world’s foundations first were laid 

in order to use omnipotence for the supply of our 
futile pleasures or the success of our futile plans. If 
we invoke Him, we must be ready for the glorious 
pain of being caught by His power out of our petty 
orbit into the eternal purposes of the Almighty, in 
whose onward sweep our lives are as a speck of dust. 
The soul that is filled with the Spirit must have 
become purged of all pride or love of ease, all self- 
complacence and self-reliance; but that soul has 
found the only real dignity, the only lasting joy. 
Come then. Great Spirit, come. Convict the world; 
and convict my timid soul. 


(3) The Comforter and the Disciples 

12-15. Yet many things have I to say to you, but ye cannot bear 
them now. But when He is come, the Spirit of truth, he will 
guide you into truth in its entirety. For he will not speak from 
himself, but as many things as he shall hear he will speak, and the 
things that are coming he will declare to you. He will glorify me, 
because from out what is mine he will take and will declare to you. 
All things as many as the Father hath are mine; that is why I said 
that from out what is mine he will take and will declare to you. 

Tet many things have I to say to you , but ye cannot 
bear them now. What teaching can be given depends 
on the pupil’s capacity to receive. Every schoolmaster 
has had his old pupils come back, perhaps from the 
University, and say what a difference it has made to 
them that someone has told them this or that; “ but 
why ” one of them adds “ did no one tell us that 
before? ” The schoolmaster remembers, but wisely 
does not say, that he did tell them, many times. But 
they could not bear it then; they were not ready; 



290 READINGS- IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

and the words passed by them. So the Lord knows 
that His disciples could not receive much that He 
would tell them. They have not yet the strength to 
accept and carry it: ye cannot bear them now. Just 
as they could not follow Him now but should follow 
afterwards (xiii, 36) on His spiritual pilgrimage, so 
their minds cannot yet enter into the full meaning of 
His ministry and His passion, but shall be led to this 
later by the Spirit. 

It is no true loyalty to the mind of the Lord which 
confines attention to what He did and said on earth. 
Then He kept His teaching within the range of His 
disciples’ apprehension. Even so they would not grasp 
all His meaning; but they would grasp enough to 
start on the mental pilgrimage or exploration, on 
which they should be carried further by the Spirit. 
We are most loyal to the mind of Christ when we are 
most receptive of all that the Apostles, under the 
guidance of the Spirit, learnt and taught, and of all 
that the same Spirit would teach us now. 

But when He is come: here, as again in the saying 
He will glorify me , the word We is emphatic. To say 
“ that one ” every time is unnatural and intolerably 
clumsy. But the stress is on the word He, not on the 
word come. It is not the future date to which the 
disciples are pointed so much as to the Agent of their 
illumination. 

The Spirit of truth , He will guide you into truth in 
its entirety. The title is repeated from xv, 26, where 
also the function associated with it is witness to Jesus 
Himself. The Spirit of truth will guide you into truth 
in its entirety. If we say “ Spirit of truth ” we must 
say “into truth”; if we say “into the truth” or 
“ into all the truth ” we must say “ Spirit of the 
truth ”; for the phrases are identical and balance 
each other. There is, of course, no reference intended 
to the discovery of scientific or general historical 
truth; though, inasmuch as all truth of every kind 



CHAPTER XVI 


291 

must ultimately be one, that thought is not at all alien 
from what is intended. The immediate reference is 
to the understanding of the Lord Jesus; since He is 
the Word of God, this will supply the clue to the 
understanding of all else, but that comes by way of 
corollary. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth 
because He leads men to an ever fuller understanding 
of Jesus Who is the truth (xiv, 6), till at last we appre- 
hend it in its entirety or as a whole. 

He will not speak from Himself any more than the 
Lord had done (vii, 1 7) ; both the Lord and the Spirit 
speak what they hear from the Father (xv, 1 5). 

The things that are coming — the Passion, Resurrec- 
tion and Ascension of the Lord — he will declare to 
you. These were more particularly the things that 
the Lord could not now expound. The events them- 
selves must take place, and then, in the illumination 
inaugurated at Pentecost, the Apostles would be able 
to hear their message. So it proved ; and the Apostolic 
teaching, given in the power of the Spirit, mainly 
concerns the themes which, when the Lord spoke, 
were the things that are coming. Let us consider some 
of them. “ Him who knew no sin, he made to be sin 
on our behalf, that we might become the righteous- 
ness of God in Him ” (II Corinthians v, 21). “ Being 
justified freely by his grace through the redemption 
that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth in his 
blood — a mercy-seat through faith — to shew his 
righteousness ” (Romans iii, 2 5). 1 “ We were buried 

1 I am persuaded that l\a<rrqpwv here means Mercy Seat, as it does 
in the LXX — e.g. Exodus xxv, 18. The Mercy Seat was sprinkled with 
the blood of the victim. So God set forth Christ on the Cross in His 
Blood to be through faith the true Mercy Seat — the place where God’s 
forgiveness meets man’s sin. This it can do freely because in the same place, 
the Cross, is displayed the cost of sin to God, so that forgiveness is 
possible without any suggestion that God makes light of sin. Thus if we 
start from the thought of righteousness, the Cross makes forgiveness morally 
possible; if we start from the thought of forgiveness, the Cross is found “ to 
shew His righteousness *\ It is itself the reconciliation of justice and 
forgiveness. 



29* READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

therefore with him through baptism into death: that 
like as Christ was raised from the dead through the 
glory of the Father, so we might also walk in newness 
of life ” ( Romans vi, 4). “ God being rich in mercy, 
for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when 
we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us 
together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved) and 
raised us up with him and made us to sit with him 
in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus ” (Ephesians ii, 
6). “ Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter 

into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way 
which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, 
through the veil, that is to say his flesh ” (. Hebrews x, 
19, 20). These are some of the declarations made by 
the Spirit to the Apostles and through them to us con- 
cerning the things which, when the Lord spoke, were 
coming. How could the disciples bear them then? 
There must be, first the events themselves; then the 
new illumination ; then the experience of that “ fellow- 
ship ” in the Spirit which led the disciples to a con- 
sciousness of union with one another in the Lord and 
so made clear what was their true relationship to Him 
(though He gave its principle in the figure of the 
Vine) and, by consequence, what His Death, Resurrec- 
tion and Ascension meant to them. 

These things that are coming concern the Lord. 
He will glorify me as He makes clear the meaning 
of what the Lord had spoken and done. Christ 
is glorified in the Passion (xii, 23, 24; xiii, 31-33; 
xvii, 1). That glorification is the necessary condi- 
tion which must be fulfilled before the Spirit can 
come (vii, 39; xvi, 7). When the Spirit comes He 
completes that glorification by making its full mean- 
ing clear to those who receive Him. 

For what the Spirit does is not to impart know- 
ledge of other themes or future events but to interpret 
Christ. He from out what is mine will take and will 
declare to you. Yet this does not involve any limita- 



CHAPTER XVI 293 

tion of His activity as revealer. For Christ is the 
Word through whose agency all things came to he (i, 3), 
so that to declare Him is to declare the principle of 
all things. Here the same truth is expressed from the 
other side. All things as many as the Father hath are 
mine so that to say what is mine and “ what is the 
Father’s ” is to say the same thing. In the same way 
the Lord said that to snatch His own from His hand 
or from the Father’s hand was the same thing (x, 28, 
29). Because He and the Father are One 5 the relation 
of the Spirit to Him and to the Father is the same. 

Each of the last three clauses ends with the refrain 
he will declare to you . The disciple is not to clamour 
for the solution of perplexities or for intellectual 
mastery of divine mysteries. What knowledge he has 
in this realm is his because the Spirit has declared it 
to him; and for the Spirit’s declaration he must wait. 

* 

(4) Sorrow turned to Joy 

16-22. “ A little while and ye no longer take note of me and again a 
little while and ye will see me.” Some of his disciples therefore 
said to one another, “ What is this which he saith to us, 4 A little 
while and ye do not take note of me and a little while and ye will 
see me 7 and 4 Because I go my way to the Father 7 77 . So they were 
saying, u What is this that he saith, this 4 little while ’? We do not 
know what he speaketh.” Jesus recognised that they were wishing 
to ask him, and said to them, ct Concerning this do ye enquire 
among themselves, that I said 4 A little while and ye do not take 
note of me and again a little while and ye will see me ’? Amen, 
Amen, I say to you that weep and lament will ye, but the world 
will rejoice; ye will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into 
joy. A woman, when she is in travail, hath sorrow, because her 
hour is come. But when the child is born, she is no longer mindful 
of the anguish for the joy that there is born a man into the world. 
And ye therefore now have sorrow; but I shall see you again and 
your heart will rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” 

The rather elaborately full record of this con- 
versation reflects the concern of the Church for 



294 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

which the Gospel was written. The delay of Christ’s 
“ return ” was a cause of serious perplexity. How 
were devout Christians to answer the “ mockers ” 
who said, “ Where is the promise of his coming? for, 
from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things 
continue as they were from the beginning of the 
creation ” (II Peter iii, 4). The Lord had spoken of 
His Coming as imminent; there was no doubt about 
that. Was He deluded? 

No; He was misunderstood. The Coming is 
the Cross and the ingathering of its triumph through 
the Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, the Evan- 
gelisation of the World, and the final Consummation; 
its focal moment is the Cross and Resurrection. So 
He assured the High Priest at His trial that from 
that moment Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled (St. 
Matthew xxvi, 64; St. Luke xx ii, 69). Certainly it 
was imminent. But this transformation of the meaning 
of the Coming was too great for their apprehension. 
To explain it in advance was impossible. The event 
itself was necessary to generate the experience by which 
alone it could be apprehended. So words were spoken 
which provided the clue to the mystery though at this 
stage they could scarcely do more than darken it. 
Later, remembered in the light of both event and 
experience, they would be seen to have offered a pre- 
paration, and to shew that the Lord’s own expecta- 
tion, far from being frustrated, had been precisely 
fulfilled. 1 He had spoken of a little while and at the 
time it had puzzled the disciples. Now, when the 
Evangelist is writing, they can look back and realise 
that all has been as He foresaw. 

A little while and ye no longer take note of me. The 
translation is clumsy; perhaps the Revised Version 
“ behold me no more ” should be retained; but the 
word used seemed to call for the translation chosen 

1 On the subject of our Lord’s thought of the Coming, see Introduction, 
pp. xxx and xxxi. 



CHAPTER XVI 


2 95 

or something very similar on some previous occasions, 
especially vi, i and viii, 51; in any case it is sharply 
contrasted with “ see ” in the following phrase. The 
Authorised Version makes the passage far more 
obscure by using “ see ” in both places. 

While the Lord was with them, the disciples noted 
all that He said and did. Now the opportunity for 
that is drawing to an end. From the moment of His 
death they can “ behold ” or take note of Him no 
longer. 

And again a little while and ye will see me. After 
a short interval of desolation, they will see Him with 
the direct spiritual vision which brings full personal 
knowledge and communion : this would begin at 
once after the Resurrection, when the new era of the 
Son of Man would be inaugurated. 

Some of the disciples murmur the phrase to one 
another, and connect with it another which He has 
used and which was hard to grasp clearly — because 
I go my way to the Father , which had before been con- 
nected with these words no longer do ye take note of me 
(10). They can only confess themselves baffled. The 
Lord recognises their perplexity; He repeats the 
mysterious phrases once again; and then He sketches 
the experience that awaits them in another way. 

Weep and lament will ye , but the world shall rejoice. 
For two days they will mourn a lost Leader and Friend, 
while the world rejoices that it is rid of a trouble-maker. 

Ye will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into 
joy. It is not only that joy will take the place of sorrow, 
but the sorrow itself becomes the joy. The Cross 
is not for Christians a stumbling-block which the 
Resurrection has removed; it is not a defeat of which 
the effect has been cancelled by a subsequent victory. 
It is itself the triumph. What was the devil’s worst 
is become God’s best. He has “ Led captivity captive ” 
( Ephesians iv, 8 quoting Psalm Iviii, 18). Sorrow 
is become joy. The Christian joy and hope do not 



296 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

arise from an ignoring of the evil in the world, but 
from facing it at its worst. The light that shines for 
ever in the Church breaks out of the veriest pit of 
gloom. 

Ye therejore now have sorrow . The Christian is no 
Stoic. He does not refuse the sorrow occasioned by 
the mortal lot of man and (still more bitterly) by his 
sin. He accepts and bears it. But he bears it “in 
sure and certain hope 

But I shall see you again , and your heart will rejoice , 
and your joy no one taketh from. you. The joy of Easter 
once truly experienced becomes a pervading atmo- 
sphere which the soul thenceforth breathes for ever. 
“ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall 
tribulation or anguish or persecution or famine or 
nakedness or peril or sword? Even as it is written, 
‘ For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we were 
accounted as sheep for the slaughter ’. Nay, in all 
these things we are more than conquerors through 
him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither 
death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor 
things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor 
height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be 
able to separate us from the love of God, which is in 
Christ Jesus our Lord” ( Romans viii, 35-39). St. 
Paul’s glorious outburst reflecting his own experience 
is no more than a symphony on the theme propounded 
before the event by the Lord Himself. 

* 

(5) Prayer and its Answer 

23-27. “ And in that da 7 ye will ask me no question. Amen, Amen, 
I say to you, if ye pray anything of the Father, he will give it you, 
in my name. Until now ye did not pray anything in my name; 
pray, and ye will receive, that your joy may be fulfilled. These 
things in parables have I spoken to you; an hour cometh when no 
longer in parables shall I speak to you, but in open speech shall 
bring you news of the Father. In that day, in my name will ye 



CHAPTER XVI m 

pray and I say not to you that I will ask the Father coiicerfring you; 
for the Father himself loveth you because ye have loved me and 
have believed that I came forth from the presence of God.” 

The changes in the word for “ ask ” are exaggerated 
by any English translation which notices them at all; 
but the feeling tone of the words is not quite the same. 
Petitions and enquiries overlap in certain ways. The 
opening phrase in this passage suggests a deference 
which is absent from the later phrases until the first 
recurs in a new context. The disciples are not here 
thought of as making petitions to their Lord, but rather 
as consulting Him and awaiting His decision. This 
is our proper attitude in prayer, and it is noteworthy 
that it recurs in 26 of the attitude of the Son to the 
Father, so that even in prayer the analogy still holds 
— We : Christ : : Christ : the Father; though evid- 
ently in the latter case there is no absence in the Son 
of full knowledge concerning the Father’s mind. 

But a new principle of prayer has been laid down — 
Prayer which is offered and granted in my name. This 
principle was stated in xiv. 13 and again in xv, 16. 
Here there is an addition to the thought then ex- 
pressed; for the crucial words in my name are, so to 
speak, held back, so as to be connected with he will 
give it you as well as with if ye fray anything. Both the 
prayer and its answer are in His Name. We have 
already seen what is meant for us by prayer in the 
Name of Christ (xv, 16); it means that we pray as His 
representatives, as He would pray in our place, as 
He does pray in heaven. But we are at first surprised 
at the thought that the Father gives in His Name the 
answer to our prayer; yet we have already been told 
(xiv, 26) that the Father sends the Spirit in the Name 
of the Son. For in fact the Son is the Mediator, 
through whom our prayers ascend to the Father and 
through whom the Father’s love descends in bless- 
ings on His children. This does not interpose a 
barrier between God and Man, for the Mediator is 



298 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Himself both God and Man. Another way of 
approaching this thought would be to say that through 
the union of divine and human in Jesus Christ, we 
have both more assured access to the Father ( Ephesians 
ii, 1 8 and iii, 12) and more abundant blessing from 
the Father. It is the same thought which is also 
expressed in i, 51, where the Lord speaks of the 
angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son 
of Man. 

It is a new experience of worship that is offered. 
Until now ye did not pray anything in my name . They 
were men of prayer; but they had prayed as devout 
Jews, not as disciples checking each desire as it 
suggested itself for presentation to the Father by 
reference to the Mind of their Master. That is the 
prayer that will always be answered, and answered 
with the consequence of a joy that is complete; pray 
(sc. in my name) and ye will receive, that your joy may 
be fulfilled. 

All this will be the experience of the disciples in 
that day — the day when the Lord sees them again, 
bestowing the joy that no one can take from them, 
the day of His Easter greeting and His threefold 
Easter gift of peace, of mission, and of holy spirit. 
That day is now very near; its fuller revelation is at 
hand. These things in parables have I spoken to you; 
an hour cometh when no longer in parables shall I speak 
to you , but in open speech shall bring you news of the 
Father. The revelation through the Spirit which 
would follow the Resurrection would be clearer than 
it was possible to give at the earlier time when Jesus 
was not yet glorified (vii, 39). And this clearer revela- 
tion can be ours now, if we are willing to “ abide in 
Him and His words abide in us ” (xv, 7). 

In that day (which is now equivalent to saying “ in 
the power of the Spirit whom I will send ”), in my 
name ye will pray, and I say not to you that I will ask 
the Father concerning you : once again the word for 



CHAPTER XVI 


299 

asking questions is substituted for that which stands 
for making petitions, as though the Son would not 
presume to ask outright for any boon, but might 
consult the Father concerning what His loving wisdom 
would decide; and even that will be unnecessary for 
the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me 
and have believed that I came forth from the presence of 
God. The word for loveth and loved is not that which 
represents the universal and self-giving love of God, 
but that which represents friendship ; perhaps we may 
translate thus: the Father himself is friendly to you 
because ye have been my friends. Within that holy 
love of God which goes forth to all men — So God 
loved the world (iii, 16) — there is room for particular 
relationships to individual men and women, and those 
whose hearts are won to affection for the Lord Jesus 
are thereby brought into a special relation of tender 
intimacy with the Father. An earthly father who loves 
all his children equally may yet have special ties of 
intimacy with each one, a peculiar tenderness in every 
case; this one is so eager, that one so gentle, another 
so wistfully affectionate; he does not love one more 
than another, but he loves each differently. It makes 
the love of God seem less remote in its holiness when 
we learn that it contains within itself a similar varia- 
tion of individual attachment. Nor need any be 
excluded from the “ friendship ” of God that is here 
spoken of, for all may be “ friends ” of Jesus. 

Yet it is not a mere human friendship that so 
qualifies the disciples; it is this in combination with 
the faith which recognises His mission : ye have 
believed that I came forth from the presence of God — not 
only from God (30) as a messenger might come whom 
God had summoned to receive instructions and then 
despatched, but one who dwelt ever with God and 
was sent forth from the divine presence which was 
His home. 



3 oo READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

(6) The Divine Triumph 

28-33. “ I came forth from the Father and am come into the world; 
again, I leave the world and depart to the Father.” His disciples 
say, “ Lo, now in open speech thou speakest and sayest no parable; 
now we know that thou knowest all things and hast not need that 
any one should ask thee. By this we believe that thou earnest forth 
from God.” Jesus answered them, “At this moment ye believe. 
Behold, there cometh an hour, and it is come, that ye will be 
scattered each to his own home, and me ye will leave alone, and 
. yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. These things 
have I spoken to you that in me ye may have peace. In the world 
ye have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the 
world.” 

The reference to the faith of the disciples (27) 
leads to this apparently clear declaration. I came 
forth from the Father and am come into the world ; again, 
I leave the world and depart to the Father. The pre- 
position in the phrase from the Father very nearly 
means out of the Father ; it would be a mistake to press 
it, but the suggestion of an intimate identity with the 
Father before the Incarnation is conveyed. The dis- 
ciples seem to think that this is the declaration in open 
speech which had been promised. But is it really so 
clear what is meant by “ coming into the world ” 
where the words are used of Him through whom all 
things came to be (i, 3), or what is meant by “ departure 
to the Father ” when spoken of Him who is always 
in the bosom of the Father (i, 18; see 32). In fact 
the disciples shew, by a slight but significant mis- 
quotation, that, though in one sense they believe, yet 
their understanding is very limited. They welcome 
the plainness of language: Now in open speech thou 
speakest and sayest no parable. Now we know that thou 
knowest all things (even our unspoken thoughts) and 
needest not that any man should ask thee. The Lord had 
read their longing for a clear declaration, and had 
given it though they had not asked and the longing 
was unexpressed. By this we believe that thou earnest 



CHAPTER XVI ' 301 

forth from God. A sincere affirmation of a true faith. 
And yet Nicodemus had said just the same! (iii, 2). 
For though the Lord had said that He came from the 
■presence of or from beside God (jrapd, 27) and out of 
God (ex, 28), the disciples confess no more than that 
He came from God (a-n-o, 30) as a mere messenger 
might come. It is something to believe that; but it 
is very far short of the faith for which the Lord had 
asked: Believe me that I am in the Father and the 
Father in me; In that day ye shall recognise that I am in 
the Father, and ye in me, and I in you (xiv, xi, 20). 

We should not, then, be surprised that the Lord 
accepts this profession of faith as no more than a Very 
incomplete instalment. It will not survive the shock 
that awaits it. At this moment ye believe: yes, in the 
inspiration of what had happened in the Upper Room 
and of the wonderful awe-creating words, they do for 
the time and in a measure believe. But it will not 
last. Behold, there cometh an hour, and it is come, that 
ye will be scattered each to his own home. The prophecy 
of Zechariah xiii, 7 — - “ Smite the shepherd and the 
sheep shall be scattered ” — was prominent in the 
mind of the Lord that night (St. Mark xiv, 27). And 
it was fulfilled — “ they all left him and fled ” (St. 
Mark xiv, 50). And me ye will leave alone. He went 
forth alone bearing His cross, no follower attending 
on Him. He alone was then the true Israel, the 
Servant of the Lord, the Vine of God — utterly 
deserted, utterly alone. 

Yet this was not the deepest truth; it would seem 
so to others; it would seem so to Himself (St. Mark 
xv, 34); but in deepest truth it would not be so; and 
as He looks forward to what awaits Him He knows 
the truth : and yet I am not alone because the Father is 
with me. At every stage of His “ departure to the 
Father ” the Father is with Him, even as at every 
stage of our pilgrimage to the Father’s home we are 
at home with the Father (xiv, 2). 



302 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

These things have I spoken to you — the last of the 
seven iterations of this phrase (xiv, 25; xv, 1 1 ; xvi, 1, 
6, 25, 33) as the great discourse reaches its conclusion, 
that in me ye may have peace. Peace, the peace that is 
mine , was the promise that accompanied the first 
mention of the Comforter (xiv, 26, 27); so now it is 
the last promised gift. Peace — the greatest need of 
the world and of the soul: in me ye may have peace. 
Only in Him; not in the world, till the world takes 
Him for its Lord. In the world ye have tribulation; 
that remains true; and the tribulation will become 
more grievous rather than less (xvi, 1-4). But those 
who are in Him will not heed it. Be of good cheer; 1 
have overcome the world. 

That those words should be spoken then is a fact 
that almost paralyses feeling, even the feelings of awe 
and adoration. He knew what was before Him; yet 
He can say I have overcome the world. For what the 
world thought His shame was His glory and what the 
world thought His defeat was His victory. “ Having 
put off from himself his body, he made a show of the 
principalities and powers openly, triumphing over 
them in the Cross ” ( Colossians ii, if). Not in gloom 
or depression, but in solemn triumph, “ for the joy 
that was set before him ” {Hebrews xii, 2), He moves 
forward to His death. Soon the crown of glory and 
thorns will be upon His brow; soon upon His gallows- 
throne He will be lifted up ; already He is the con- 
queror; I have overcome the world. 


APPENDIX 

The Lord’s Teaching on Prayer 

In Chapter XVI we find the culmination of the 
Lord’s teaching on Prayer; in Chapter XVII we have 



CHAPTER XVI 


3°3 

His own prayer of self-consecration offered as Priest- 
Victim, Victim-Priest. It is worth while to pause for a 
moment and consider His teaching on Prayer as a whole. 

First must be put the fundamental principle that 
God is perfect love and wisdom; He has no need that 
we should tell Him of our wants or desires; He knows 
what is for our good better than we do ourselves, and 
it is always His will to give it: “ Your Father knoweth 
what things ye have need of before ye ask Him ” 
(St. Matthew vi, 8). Consequently we must not in 
prayer have any thought of suggesting to God what 
was not already in His mind — still less of changing 
His mind or purpose. 

But what things are good for us may depend on 
our spiritual state. Food which is wholesome and 
nourishing for those who are in good health may be 
lethal poison to any who are in high fever. The worst 
of all diseases of the soul is detachment from God, 
whether by ignorance or by neglect. If all our wants 
are supplied while we have no thought of God, this 
may confirm us in our detachment from Him, and so 
the things that should have been for our wealth are 
unto us an occasion of falling (Psalm lxix, 22). Con- 
sequently the question whether what is normally a bless- 
ing, such as deliverance from the enticement of some 
temptation, will be in actual fact a blessing to me may 
often depend on whether or not I recognise God as 
the source of all good things. So the first require- 
ment in prayer is that we trust to God for all blessing. 

Our Lord, according to His custom, states this in 
its place without qualification and without reserve. 
He goes to the greatest possible length in the demand 
that as we pray we shall believe that God will hear and 
answer, and in the promise that God will then grant 
our petitions. Many sayings might be quoted; one 
is sufficient: “ All things whatsoever ye pray and ask 
for, believe that ye have received them and ye shall 
have them ” (St. Mark xi, 24). 



3o 4 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

The next requirement is apparently inconsistent 
with this; for this next requirement is that we should 
persevere in prayer in spite of disappointment. We 
are to be sure that God will grant our prayers; and 
when He does not, we are to go on praying. Our 
Lord gives His teaching about perseverance in two 
parables which belong to that well-marked group of 
parables whose point is that the comparison fails. 
For in these the Lord illustrates God’s dealing with us, 
or our duty before God, by reference to human actions 
which are not morally admirable. Such are, evidently, 
the parable of the Unjust Steward (St. Luke xvi, 
1-9) and, as I think, the parable of the Labourers in 
the Vineyard (St. Matthew xx, 1-16). The duty of 
perseverance in prayer is urged upon us in the parables 
of the Importunate Friend (St. Luke xi, 5-10) and of 
the Unjust Judge (St. Luke xviii, 1-8). We know 
that God does not grant petitions in order to rid 
Himself of the nuisance which we become by our 
persistence; His choice of a parallel so completely 
inapposite is a challenge to us to seek the real reason 
why God may make long delay and then grant our 
request. 

The first requirement was perfect confidence. 
Does God wish to test our confidence? Of course 
not; He knows perfectly well what it is worth. But 
He may very likely wish to deepen it. The faith 
which takes the form — almost necessary at first — ■ 
of confidence that God will do what we ask, is after 
all faith in our own judgement as much as faith in 
God. We may not pray for anything except so far 
as we believe it to be God’s will; that belief is very 
fallible. The purpose of God’s delay may well be to 
detach our faith in Him from all trust in our own 
judgement. Scarcely anything deepens and purifies 
faith in God for His own sake as surely as perseverance 
in prayer despite long disappointment. 

So the purification of confidence by perseverance 



CHAPTER XVI 


305 

leads us to the third and deepest requirement. The 
other two were enjoined upon all His hearers; this 
was urged upon His more intimate disciples in these 
closing discourses recorded by St. John. Here are 
the great sayings : 

“ Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, this will I 
do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye 
shall ask anything in my name, I will do it ” (xiv, 

*3> H)- 

“ If ye abide in me and my sayings abide in you, 
ask whatsoever ye will and it shall come to pass for 
you ” (xv, 7). 

“ If ye ask anything of the Father, he will give it 
you, in my name; until now ye did not ask anything 
in my name; ask, and ye will receive, that your joy may 
be fulfilled ” (xvi, 23, 24). 

When the condition mentioned is satisfied, our 
wills are identified with the will of God; we are then 
praying for what He desires to give and waits to 
give until we recognise Him as its source so that our 
reception of it will strengthen our faith and not en- 
courage our neglect of Him. 

This means that the essential act of prayer is not 
the bending of God’s will to ours — of course not — 
but the bending of our wills to His. The proper out- 
line of a Christian’s prayer is not “ Please do for me 
what I want ” but “ Please do in me, with me and 
through me what you want ”. The pattern prayer that 
our Lord taught us is based on this principle; “ after 
this manner pray ye ” {St. Matthew vi, 9). What is 
the manner? 

When we come into our Father’s presence, our 
Lord seems to say, we should be so filled with the 
thought of Him that we forget all about ourselves, 
our hopes, our needs, even our sins; what we want 
most of all and therefore utter first is that all men may 
know how glorious God is and reverence Him accord- 
ingly — “Hallowed be thy Name (How often do 



3 o 6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

we pray that? We say it every day; but do we pray 
it?) Our next desire is to be that everyone should 
obey Him, so that He is truly King of His own world 

— “Thy kingdom come”; then that His whole 
purpose of love may be carried out, unspoilt by the 
selfishness in ourselves and others — “ Thy will be 
done Only after this do we turn to ourselves, and 
when we do it is to ask for those things which are 
necessary if we are to serve God with all our hearts: 
freedom from harassing anxiety — “ daily bread ” or 
“ the morrow’s bread ” ; and restoration to the favour 
we have forfeited — “ forgive us our trespasses ” ; 
and no moral adventures, for there is plenty on the 
straight path of duty to test character and develop 
grit without our being “ led ” to the lairs of dragons 

— “ lead us not into temptation ” ; and some evil 
has a grip upon us from which we cannot free our- 
selves — “ deliver us ” from that. And why? Is it 
because then we shall be good and happy? Not at 
all. It is because we are all the time concerned with 
God’s Kingdom, Power and Glory. 

The two sons of Zebedee once approached the Lord 
with a prayer which perfectly illustrates the wrong 
way to pray: “ Master, we would that thou shouldst 
do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee ”. After 
that, we are not surprised that their request was 
selfish in the worst sense — it was for something by 
gaining which they would keep others out of it. To 
such a prayer for selfish advantage there is and can be 
only one answer: Can you share My sacrifice? (Si. 
Mark x, 35-38). 

The essence of prayer is to seek how we may 
share that sacrifice. It finds its fullest expression in 
the Eucharist where we offer ourselves to Christ that 
He may unite us with Himself in His perfect self- 
offering to the Father — that self-offering to which 
He dedicated Himself in the great prayer which 
St. John now calls us to hear with adoring wonder. 



CHAPTER XVII 


We now come to what is, perhaps, the most sacred 
passage even in the four Gospels — the record of the 
Lord’s prayer of self-dedication as it lived in the 
memory and imagination of His most intimate friend. 

It consists of three main sections: 

(1) The Son and the Father (1-5). 

(2) The Son and the disciples (6-19). 

(3) The Son, the disciples and the world 

(20-26). 

* 

(1) The Son and the Father 

1-5. These things spake Jesus, and lifting up his eyes to heaven he 
said, a Father, come is the hour; glorify thy Son that the Son may 
glorify thee, as thou gavest to him authority over all flesh that all 
which thou hast given him — he may give to them eternal Life. 
(And this is the eternal Life, to know thee the only true God, and 
whom thou sendedst — Jesus Christ.) I glorified thee on the earth 
by finishing the work which thou hast given me to do. And now 
glorify thou me. Father, in thine own presence with the glory which 
I had, before the world was, in thy presence.” 

These things: the whole discourse from xiii, 31 
onwards, but especially its closing words — I have 
overcome the world (xvi, 33). It is in the conscious- 
ness of victory and accomplishment (4) that the Lord 
dedicates Himself to the final sacrifice. So the author 
of Hebrews thinks of Him as going to His death like 
the victim wearing festal garlands and enduring the 
Cross in scorn of contempt because He is upheld by 
“ the joy that was set before Him ” (Hebrews ii, 9 — 
where see Nairne’s commentary 1 — and xii, 2). 

1 The Epistle of Priesthood, pp. 308-314, especially 313-314. 

30 ? 



3 o8 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

These things: the discourse which ended with the 
declaration I have overcome the world or I have 
conquered the universe, had begun with the words Now 
was glorified the Son of Man (xiii, 31) uttered as the 
door closed behind Judas. Then He had committed 
Himself to the way of the Cross; now He accepts and 
welcomes it. 

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said “ Father 
So it had been before the recalling of Lazarus from 
death to life (xi, 41). So it is now as He enters on 
His own passage from life to death. Always His 
trust is in the Father to whom His obedience is given. 
So it will be at the very close : “ Father, into thy hands 
I commend my spirit ” (St. Luke xxiii, 46). 

“ Father, come is the hour; glorify thy Son." When 
the Greeks came He had greeted their approach with 
the words : Come is the hour that the Son of Man may be 
glorified , and went on at once to speak of the harvest 
that can only come through death (xii, 23, 24). When 
Judas had gone out into the night He said Now was 
glorified the Son of Man. Here is the third use of the 
solemn phrase : Come is the hour; glorify thy Son. It is 
the hour for the Son of Man to be lifted up (xii, 32, 
34). His glory is about to reach its full splendour: 
for it is the glory or shining forth of love, and greater 
love than this hath no man , that a man lay down his life 
on behalf of his friends (xv, 1 3). 

Glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee. The 
glory of the Father and that of the Son are inseparable. 
The Father glorifies the Son by sustaining Him in 
His perfect obedience even unto death, and the Son 
glorifies the Father by the perfection of the obedience 
which He offers. Because God is Love, the Cross is 
the glory, or, if we will, the “ effulgence of the glory ” 
(Hebrews i, 3) alike of the Father and of the Son. 

The Cross is the glory of God because self-sacrifice 
is the expression of love. That glory would be com- 
plete in itself even if it had no consequences. But in 



CHAPTER XVII 309 

fact what is revealed in the Cross is not only the per- 
fection of the divine love, but its triumph. For by 
its sacrifice the divine love wins those who can appre- 
ciate it out of their selfishness which is spiritual death 
into loving fellowship with itself which is true life: 
“ we know that we have passed out of death into Life, 
because we love the brethren ” (7 John iii, 14). But 
we do not effect that passage in any strength of our 
own ; it is the gift of God through Christ : as thou 
gavest to him to have authority over all flesh that all 
which thou hast given him — he may give to them 
eternal Life. 

To the Son is given authority to execute judgment 
because he is Son of Man (v. 27). So far this might be 
displayed in condemnation or in pardon. But if the 
Father now perfectly glorifies the Son, and the Son 
perfectly glorifies the Father — if, in other words, that 
burning love which is the heart of the Godhead be 
displayed — then the authority of the Son will be 
exercised in the gift of eternal Life. For the Judge 
will be Himself the Saviour. 

How far this salvation extends is left undefined. 
It reaches all which thou hast given him , for if any man 
responds to the love of God in Christ he does so in 
virtue of the Father’s act; He had said before, No man 
can come to me except the Father which sent me draw 
him (vi, 44); and those words were at once followed 
by the promise — and I will raise him up at the last 
day. So here the gift of the Son to those whom the 
Father has given to Him is eternal life. They are 
thought of as a single company, a single gift — that 
which thou hast given him. For in Him we are one; in 
so far as we are not one we are not yet in Him; and 
the prayer for the disciples which follows is primarily 
that they may he one (1 1). To every member of this 
fellowship, given by the Father to the Son, the Son 
will give eternal life, if so be that the Father glorify 
the Son and the Son the Father. 



3 io READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

The condition is indispensable; but if it be 
fulfilled the consequence is inevitable. For this is the 
eternal life , to know thee the only true God . , and whom 
thou sendedst , Jesus Christ. This knowledge does not 
earn eternal life; it is eternal life. Do we hesitate to 
accept that? Does it seem to us that just “ knowing ” 
a theological truth cannot be an adequate occupation 
for eternity? Certainly it could not be. But the 
word for know here is not that which stands for a grasp 
of truth ; it is that which stands for personal acquaint- 
ance. Even in human friendships there is the constant 
delight of new discoveries by each in the character of 
the other. Eternity cannot be too long for our finite 
spirits to advance in knowledge of the infinite God. 

We constantly miss the spiritual value of the greatest 
religious phrases by failing to recall their true mean- 
ing. At one time I was much troubled that the 
climax of the Vent Creator should be 

Teach us to know the Father, Son, 

And Thee, of Both, to be but One. 

It seemed to suggest that the ultimate purpose of the 
coming of the Holy Spirit was to persuade us of the 
truth of an orthodox formula. But that is mere 
thoughtlessness. If a man once knows the Spirit 
within him, the source of all his aspiration after 
holiness, as indeed the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and if 
he knows this Spirit of Jesus Christ within himself as 
none other than the Spirit of the Eternal and Almighty 
God, what more can he want? This is the eternal life. 

This definition of eternal life can hardly be regarded 
as a part of the prayer addressed by our Lord to the 
Father. It is a comment inserted by the Evangelist. 
But his mind is so identified with its content — in 
this instance the prayer offered by the Lord — that 
he so phrases his comment as to make it, in grammatical 
construction, part of the prayer. It is a signal instance 
of the extent to which his mind and his theme have 



CHAPTER XVII 


3 ” 

interpenetrated one another; this is the cause of modi- 
fications in the form of language used, but it is also 
the condition of the profound apprehension achieved 
and expressed. 

I glorified thee on the earth by finishing the work 
which thou hast given me to do. His active obedience 
is the means by which He gives glory to God; so in 
Hebrews “ Lo, I am come to do thy will, O God ” 
( 'Hebrews x, 7 quoting Psalm xl, 7, 8). He has done 
all that can be done on the earth. He has loved to the 
uttermost (xiii, 1) that life in this world permits. One 
ultimate perfection of love remains to be achieved, and 
He prays that now this may be His — the perfect ex- 
pression of love in the perfection of self-sacrifice. 

I glorified thee on the earth by finishing the work 
which thou hast given me to do. What work was that? 
The revelation of God and, therein, the establishment 
of His Kingdom; or, in other words, the living of 
a life of perfect love and thereby the winning of that 
new control in the hearts of men which is called “ holy 
spirit ”. This He has done so far as it can be done 
at all on earth , that is, under the conditions of human 
life here. And therein He has glorified the Father. 
For all that we adore in Him is the Father’s glory- 
shining through Him — glory as of an only-begotten 
from a Father (i, 14)*- — and His shewing forth of this 
is therefore a giving of glory to the Father. 

We are all familiar with this double thought in 
other connexions; a boy is trained by his school to a 
life of discipline and public service; thereafter the 
school is proud of him and honours him; but what 
people admire in him is what his school has given to 
him, and he, by fidelity to what he has learnt, brings 
honour to his school. If we sometimes find this 
thought difficult when applied to the highest levels 
of spiritual attainment, that is only because of our 
disastrous tendency to sheer individualism in things 
of the spirit — (see xo below); it is never possible to 


312 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

divide up the credit for spiritual achievement and 
allot portions to different persons. 

All that can be done on earth — under conditions 
of earthly life — has been done. But there remains 
what can be done through death, which is indeed on 
earth so far as it is the close of earthly life, but is already 
in heaven so far as it is the gateway to fulfilled fellow- 
ship with the Father. This it can be, without transition 
or mediation, only if he who dies is already “ made 
perfect in love ” (/ John iv, 18). That condition has 
once, and once only, been fulfilled. Because Jesus 
had finished the work of living the life of love, therefore 
for Him death is immediate passage to the eternal 
glory. And now glorify thou me , Father , in thine own 
presence with the glory which I had before the world was, 
in thy presence. 

The love that was always perfect according to the 
existing reality - — perfect in the manger, in the home, 
in the carpenter’s shop, in the works of mercy, in the 
words of life — now reaches its culmination in the 
absolute self-abnegation of love undimmed — nay, 
victoriously intensified — by agony and death. This 
is the perfect fellowship with the Father manifested 
under the conditions of a sinful world. In one sense 
it is true to say that the death on the Cross was the 
gateway to that eternal fellowship and glory ; but 
more profoundly it is true to say that the death on 
the Cross is itself the attainment of that fellowship 
and glory in absolute plenitude. 

There is no contradiction between the thought 
that the Lord Jesus was always, from His Birth, per- 
fectly united with the Father, and saying that He 
“ advanced in favour with God and men ” {St. Luke ii, 
52) or that He “ learned obedience by the things which 
he suffered ” ( Hebrews v, 8). If Herod had succeeded 
in killing Him in His infancy, there would have been 
an Incarnation, but no effective revelation of the 
divine love. He grew as boy and man; at every stage 



CHAPTER XVII 313 

He was perfect in that stage; only by all the stages 
of a life matured to full manhood, and then cut short 
by the self-centredness of a world unable to bear the 
intolerable glory and judgement of love in its fulness, 
- — only so could the whole revelation be given, the 
whole power of divine love be exercised, the whole 
triumph of love over selfishness be won. The Cross 
is the focus of the eternal glory. 

For this perfection of divine love, which had before 
the world was united the Father and the Son, is precisely 
what sent the Son into the world; God so loved that he 
gave (iii, 16). That love is now to pay the full price 
and win its longed-for result. It is not the Cross as 
an isolated episode which is thus the focus of the 
eternal glory; it is the Cross as the culmination of 
the life of love, as the achievement of the purpose 
of the Incarnation, as the projection of divine light 
across the spaces of the world’s darkness. But in fact 
the Cross is all of these; therefore as He approaches 
the Cross, and with direct reference to the Cross, the 
Son prays to the Father, Now — now glorify thou me , 
Father, in thine own -presence , with the glory which I had, 
before the world was, in thy presence. 

The Aaronic High Priest entered into the Holiest 
Place (symbol of the immediate presence of God) to 
offer the blood of the victim (symbol of the consecrated 
life of Israel). Our High Priest enters the immediate 
presence of God in and by the very act of offering His 
own consecrated life; for to make that offering and to 
be in that presence are not two things, but one. 

In that presence the Lord was before the world 
was-, from that presence He has never moved; but, 
as is necessary in this world of time and change, 
has on earth (4) at once experienced and exhibited its 
meaning in progressive stages; now He will again 
be in that presence in the uttermost meaning of those 
words. And He wills that where He is, His disciples 
also may be with Him (24). 



3 i4 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

“ Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter 
into the holy place, by the blood of Jesus, by the way 
which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, 
through the veil, that is to say his flesh; and having 
a great high priest over the house of God; let us draw 
near with a true heart in full assurance.” “ For we 
have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the 
feeling of our infirmities ; but one that hath been in all 
points tempted like as we are, apart from (temptations 
due to past) sin “ who in the days of his flesh, 
having offered up prayers and supplications with 
strong crying and tears unto him that was able to 
save him out of death, and having been heard for his 
godly fear, though he was a Son, yet learned obedi- 
ence by the things which he suffered, and having been 
made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him 
the cause of eternal salvation” (Hebrews x, 19-22; 
iv, 15; v, 7-9). 

* 

(2) The Son and the Disciples (6-19) 

6-8. “ I manifested thy Name to the men whom thou gavest me out 
of the world. Thine they were and to me thou gavest them, and 
thy word they have observed. Now they recognised that all things 
which thou hast given me are from thee, because the sayings which 
thou gavest me I have given to them, and they themselves received 
them, and recognised truly that from thee I came forth and they 
believed that thou didst send me.” 

I manifested thy Name . Here, as always, the Name 
is the revealed Nature. Jesus has manifested the 
Nature of God. He has not only described it; He 
has made it apparent; He has exhibited it. But this 
has not been done to all men, but to the men whom 
thou gavest me out of the world . St. Jude had been 
perplexed by the thought that the Lord would manifest 
Himself to the disciples and not to the world (xiv, 22). 
But in fact nothing else was possible. If God were 
merely Omnipotence, that could be manifested to 



CHAPTER XVII 


3i5 

everyone by display of miraculous power. But Love 
cannot be so made manifest; the cynical pride of self- 
centred men will say that its hope is visionary, its 
joy tedium, and its sacrifice weakness. How can 
love so penetrate the shell of the self-complacent as to 
be recognised by them? So the Lord makes known 
His Father’s Nature of love to those who already 
belong to the Father as having at least enough of the 
“ image of God ” still unobliterated to afford the 
kinship that makes recognition possible. Thine they 
were ; before ever the Lord called them they were 
truly among the People of God. And to me thou 
gavest them; they heard His call and followed; but 
this was the Father’s doing, for no man can come to me 
except the Father which hath sent me draw him (vi, 44 
and 65). And thy word they have observed; for the 
word that the Lord has spoken is what He has heard 
from His Father (viii, 26, 40; xiv, 24); in observing 
the teaching of Jesus they were observing the word 
of the Father. 

Now they recognised that all things which thou hast 
given me are from thee. This is the crucial recognition 
— not that Jesus is from God, which is the first stage 
of Christian faith, but that (since this is so) what we 
find in Him to love and to worship is in truth not His 
but the Father’s. The religious value of the doctrine 
of the Incarnation is not found in what it affirms 
concerning the historical Figure, Jesus of Nazareth, 
but in what it affirms concerning the eternal God. 
When we know that all the grace and truth (i, 14) 
which shine in Jesus Christ are shining through Him 
from the Father, we begin to understand who and 
what God really is. 

All this is made possible through the fidelity with 
which the Son reproduces the mind and activity of 
the Father (v, 19) — because the sayings which thou 
gavest me I have given to them — and through the faith 
with which the disciples received that revelation — and 



3 i 6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

they themselves received them , and recognised truly that 
from thee I came forth. Thus the disciples, and we 
among them, have been led to that principle and 
activity of Apostleship which is introduced into this 
prayer by a fivefold refrain (8, 1 8, 21, 23, 25) — and 
they lelieved that thou didst send me. 

The Apostolic Mission of the Son is the pivot of 
human history regarded as an arena wherein the 
divine purpose is being accomplished. All turns on 
that. From that flows the Apostleship of Church and 
Ministry. If God sent the Son, then the witness of 
the Church and its challenge to the world has divine 
authority. If God sent the Son, then in that act we 
see disclosed the heart of the Eternal. There is no 
cause for wonder that in this prayer, offered as His 
ministry approaches its climax and its close, the Lord 
should make this a central theme — that thou didst 
send me. 

* 

9-1 1. “ I ask concerning them. Not concerning the world do I ask, 
but concerning them whom thou hast given me, because they are 
thine (and all mine are thine and thine are mine), and I have been 
glorified in them. And no longer am I in the world, and they are 
in the world, and I to thee am coming. Holy Father, watch over 
them in thy Name which thou hast given to me, that they may be 
one as we.” 

1 ask concerning them. Again, as in xvi, 26, the 
word used of the Lord’s prayer to His Father is that 
which suggests enquiry rather than petition, as though, 
not venturing to make request of the Father, He 
rather consults Him on their behalf. No doubt the 
version “ I pray for them ” is right in a translation 
intended for public or general reading ; but the tone 
of the word actually used has a suggestion of real 
beauty and value. Most of our prayers would be the 
better if they were completely free from any element of 
clamour or demand, and had more of the quality of a 
consultation in which we lay the needs of ourselves 



CHAPTER XVII 317 

and of others before our Father that He may supply 
them as His loving wisdom suggests. 

Not concerning the world, do I ask. The world is the 
whole system of nature, including human nature, 
which “ lieth in the evil one ” (/ John v, 19). It was 
the object of God’s redemptive love, which prompted 
the sending of the Son (iii, 1 6), and the Lord has over- 
come it (xvi, 33). It will at last, through the faith of 
disciples, be won to that same faith (23). But till the 
disciples are perfected into one (23) the world Cannot 
be penetrated by the Gospel. The Lord yearns to 
redeem it; but He will do this through the con- 
tinuance of His own apostolic mission in His dis- 
ciples (18). Therefore His prayer is not directly for 
the world, but for the disciples, who, after all, are part 
of the world (15), and through whom the world is to 
be won. 

But concerning them whom thou hast given me, 
because they are thine. The disciples are a gift of the 
Father to the Son, for No man can come to me except 
the Father which sent me draw him ; no one can come to 
me except it have been given to him of my Father (vi, 44 
and 65). The Father could give them because they 
were His. Indeed between the Father and the Son 
there is complete identity of ownership; all mine are 
thine and thine are mine. And in these who thus 
belong both to the Father and the Son the Son has been 
glorified. The constancy of their loyalty and faith 
amid all the controversies, even at a time when many 
of the disciples went back and walked no more with 
him (vi, 66), had brought glory to the Son: I have 
been glorified in them. 

And no longer am I in the world. The Lord has been 
in the world, not only locally, but in the sense of shar- 
ing all the limitations of human experience alongside 
His disciples. Now that is ending. Death will at 
once free Him from the limitations and remove Him 
from the side of His disciples; but they must remain; 



3 1 8 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

they are in the world ; they will still be subject to all 
the pressures of the world, including even its hatred 
(14), without their Master beside them to steady 
their hearts and minds, because separation from them 
is involved in the perfecting of His union with the 
Father — I to thee am coming. 

What shall be His prayer for them as He leaves 
them to be His witnesses in the world? Shall it be 
that they may be courageous? strong ? pure in 
heart? All these are, no doubt, included in what He 
asks, but these are not foremost. Two things He 
puts first: that the Father will watch over them with 
the protection of His Name — His character re- 
vealed in Christ; and that they may be united. Holy 
Father , watch over them in thy Name which thou hast 
given to me , that they may be one as we. 

Holy Father. The fundamental element in the con- 
cept of holiness is separation from the profane world. 
In primitive times this separation is conceived 
locally or ceremonially; as faith becomes more spiritual, 
the separation is understood as that between righteous- 
ness and sin, love and selfishness; but the thought 
of separateness persists. Here, where the burden of 
the prayer is deliverance from the evil power of the 
world (15), the thought of God as wholly separate 
from that evil is specially appropriate. The Father is 
asked to grant to the disciples His own immunity 
from evil. 

Watch over them in thy Name which thou hast given 
to me. The word translated in our versions “ keep ” 
is that which always suggests attentive watching. 
The Lord prays His Father to watch in loving care 
these disciples to whom the great task is now com- 
mitted. This He is besought to do in His own Name, 
which yet has been given to be the Name of Christ. 
Thus St. Paul says that the Father gave to Him “ the 
name which is above every name ” ( 'Philippians ii, 9) 
and must therefore be God’s own Name; if any Name 



CHAPTER XVII 


3*9 

in the literal sense of that word is in mind, presumably 
it is Adonai. But the thought is of revealed character, 
not of any spoken sound. This, which is first the 
Father’s own, the Father has given to the Son. Christ 
came “ in the Father’s name ” (v, 43) as representing 
Him in the world : but this He could do only because 
He was one in character with the Father, so that seeing 
Him we see the Father (xiv, 9). In that character of 
holy love the Father is prayed to watch over the 
disciples, holding them within the sphere of that love, 
so that it may possess their hearts — of which the 
proof will be their unity among themselves. 

That they may he one. The Lord is going away. 
In the whole world His cause will be represented by 
this little handful of disciples. If they fall apart, the 
cause is lost. What is most of all essential is that they 
be united. We see in the Acts of the Apostles in how 
many ways the infant Church was tempted to disunity 
— as for example in the doctrinal difference concern- 
ing the authority of the Law for Gentile Christians 
( Acts xv, 1-2,9) or t ^ ie personal difference between 
Paul and Barnabas concerning John Mark (Acts xv, 
36-41). Such division at that stage would have been 
fatal; it has been sufficiently disastrous coming later, 
as it did. So the Lord’s prayer was, and (we cannot 
doubt) still is, that His disciples may be one. 

But the unity of the Church is precious not only 
for its utility in strengthening the Church as an 
evangelistic agent. It is itself in principle the con- 
summation to which all history moves. The purpose 
of God in creation was, and is, to fashion a fellowship 
of free spirits knit together by a love in all its members 
which answers to the manifested love of God — or, 
as St. Paul expresses it, to “ sum up all things in 
Christ ” (Ephesians i, 10). The agent of that purpose 
is the Church, which is therefore called the Body of 
Christ, through the activity and self- edifying of 
which Christ Himself is “ fulfilled ” (Ephesians i, 23, 



320 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

where we should read for “ the fulness of him that 
filleth all in all ” — “ the fulness of him who, taking 
things all in all, is being fulfilled ”. For the fulfill- 
ing of Christ to the “ measure of the stature of His 
completeness ” (Ephesians iv, 1 3) is the meaning of 
universal history). The unity of the Church is some- 
thing much more than unity of ecclesiastical structure, 
though it cannot be complete without this. It is 
the love of God in Christ possessing the hearts of men 
so as to unite them in itself — as the Father and the 
Son are united in that love of Each for Each which is 
the Holy Spirit. The unity which the Lord prays 
that His disciples may enjoy is that which is eternally 
characteristic of the Tri-une God. It is therefore 
something much more than a means to any end — 
even though that end be the evangelisation of the 
world; it is itself the one worthy end of all human 
aspiration; it is the life of heaven. For His prayer 
is not only that they may be one ; it is that they may be 
one as we. 

Before the loftiness of that hope and calling our 
little experience of unity and fellowship is humbled 
to the dust. Our friendships, our reconciliations, our 
unity of spirit in Church gatherings or in missionary 
conferences — beautiful as they are, and sometimes 
even wonderful in comparison with our habitual life 
of sectional rivalries and tensions, yet how poor and 
petty they appear in the light of the Lord’s longing. 
Let all of us who are concerned in Peace Movements 
or Faith and Order Movements or “ Conversations ” 
with fellow-Christians of other denominations, take 
note of the judgement under which we stand by 
virtue of the gulf separating the level of our highest 
-attainment and noblest enterprise, from “ the prize of 
the call upwards which God gives in Christ Jesus ” 
(Philippians iii, 14) — that they may be one as we. 



CHAPTER XVII 


3 21 


12-13. “When I was with them, I was watching over them in thy 
Name which thou hast given to me, and I guarded them, and none 
of them was destroyed except the son of destruction, that the 
scripture might be fulfilled. But now to thee I am coming; and 
these things I speak in the world that they may have the joy that 
is mine fulfilled in themselves.” 

When the Lord was among His disciples He 
exercised that loving care which now He prays the 
Father to exercise : When I was with them , I was watch- 
ing over them in thy Name which thou hast given to me. 
The divine character of loving wisdom is at once the 
motive of His vigilance and the protection in which 
He enfolds them. And I guarded them; He was, as 
it were, their sentry keeping evil influences away from 
them. And this was done effectively, for none of them 
was destroyed except the son of destruction , that the 
scripture might he fulfilled. The one exception proves 
the rule, for he who was destroyed perished by his 
own quality from which no external guardianship 
could protect him; he was a son of destruction. It was 
his nature to destroy; he sought to destroy Jesus, 
but he did destroy himself, when he went immedi- 
ately out, and it was night (xiii, 30). And even therein 
was the divine purpose carried towards its accom- 
plishment, as is shewn by the fact that Judas was 
fulfilling scripture (see xiii, 18 and the comment 
there). 

But now to thee I am coming — the first theme of 
the prayer and the occasion of all the rest. And these 
things I speak that they may have the joy that is mine 
fulfilled in themselves. The mind and will of the Lord 
are in their very nature a prayer to the Father. 
There is no need for Him to utter any prayer. But 
He does utter it, just as He uttered His thanksgiving 
for answer to prayer on another occasion (xi, 41, 42), 
in order that His disciples may know what His mind 
and will are, and His purpose for them, so that there 
may be brought to full measure in them the joy which 



322 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

is His — the joy of union with the Father and, in Him, 
with all who are united to Him by faith and love. 

* 

14-15. “I have given them thy word, and the world hated them, 
because they are not from the world as I myself am not from the 
world. I do not ask that thou shouldest take them from the world 
but that thou shouldest protect them from the evil one.” 

I have given them thy word. This, repeated in 
substance from verse 8, is the supreme service of 
Christ to the disciples. He has given them the self- 
utterance, the self-disclosure, of the Father. They 
were able to receive it; the world could not (xiv, 17; 
21-24). That is because of the distinctive character 
of the world and of the disciples ; the world hates any- 
thing which it cannot understand which yet seems 
to contain a judgement of itself; so the world hated 
them , because they are not from the world as I myself am 
not from the world. 

The word which I translate from throughout this 
passage is that which I have elsewhere usually trans- 
lated out of. It denotes origin, or character due to 
origin, or (with words of protection or deliverance) 
the thought of a hold or grip from which escape is 
sought. 

Thus when it is said that the disciples, even as 
their Lord, are not from the world, it is origin and 
character due to origin that are in question. Every- 
thing in them which qualified them to receive the 
Father’s word and to become disciples has its origin 
elsewhere than in this world; but in the passage 
that follows it is rather separation and protection that 
are in mind, though the use of the same preposition 
makes a connecting link. 

I do not ask that thou shouldest take them from the 
world. He is leaving the world, but they must 
remain in the world, though they do not belong to 



CHAPTER XVII 323 

the world. They remain there as witnesses, through 
whom the world itself will at last believe (23). For all 
Christians at all times it is a hard question how they 
are to fulfil their vocation to be in, but not of or from, 
the world. The hermit seems to err by going out of 
the world; the worldly Christian errs by being of or 
from the world. Where is the line of true adjustment 
between the two? This is the heart of the controversy 
on Pacifism. All that the Lord here lays down is the 
double principle itself — in the world but not of it. 

But that thou shouldest protect them from the evil 
one. Here the word translated protect is again that 
which suggests careful attention, translated in verse 
11 “Watch over”; and the word translated from 
suggests that the Evil One has a hold or grip upon 
them. They are not snow-white innocents who only 
need to be kept from all contamination by evil. We 
remember the desire of the Sons of Thunder to call 
down fire from heaven on the Samaritans who would 
not receive the Lord (St. Luke ix, 54); or the dispute 
but a few hours ago which of them is accounted to be 
greatest (St. Luke xxii, 24); or Simon Peter’s imminent 
denial. The divine watchfulness has not only to 
keep them from evil contacts, but to set them free 
from the hold which the Evil One has upon them 
even now. 

_ And we, who are also disciples, know how true 
this is of ourselves. Can we even say with confidence 
that we are not from the world (which “ lieth in the 
evil one ”) as He is not from the world? Yes — if we 
have at all received and observed His word, we 
can say that. But the Evil One (person or principle 
matters little) has a grip upon us: “deliver us from 
the Evil One ” 

♦ 


16-19. “ From the world they are not, as I myself am not from the 
world. Consecrate them in the truth; * thy word is truth ’. As 


324 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

me thou didst send into the world? I also sent them into the world. 
And for their sakes I consecrate myself, that they also may be 
consecrated in truth.” 

From the world they are not , as I myself am not from 
the world ; the declaration of verse 14 is repeated as 
an introduction to the thought of consecration which 
immediately follows; for the consecration of the dis- 
ciples, which is dependent on that of their Master, is 
bestowed on the same ground; their qualification to 
receive it is the same in kind as His, however far it 
falls short in degree. 

Consecrate them. The Greek word is that used for 
the consecration of a sacrificial victim or the hallow- 
ing of a man for sacred work. It refers more to the 
external benediction and commission than to the in- 
ward character. As contrasted with “ purify ” it is 
positive, not negative. To “ purify ” is to cleanse 
from uncleanness, such as would disqualify a man for 
consecration ; to “ consecrate ” is to equip a man 
already qualified with the commission to work for 
God. The disciples are already cleansed or purified 
on account of the word which Christ has spoken to 
them (xv, 3); their life now has its spring in that 
word, so that they are not from the world. Therefore 
He prays the Father to consecrate them for their work 
of witness. 

Because their work is witness, their consecration is 
in the truth. So St. Paul tells his converts at Thes- 
salonica that God chose them “ as first-fruits unto 
salvation in consecration of spirit and faith in the 
truth ” (II Thessalonians ii, 13). The truth, which is 
given to them and to which they are to bear witness, 
is, so to speak, the medium and atmosphere of their 
consecration. So the word both cleanses and con- 
secrates, and the identity of the cleansing and con- 
secrating word and the truth is then clinched by the 
citation of Psalm cxix, 142 — Thy word is truth. 

Now follows the purpose and occasion of this con- 



CHAPTER XVII 


325 

secration: As me thou didst send into the world . , I also 
sent them into the world. The Apostolic mission and 
ministry which originates in the sending of the Son 
by the Father is continued in the sending of the 
Apostles by the Son. Once again the Lord appears as 
true Mediator. The Father : the Son : : the Son : 
the Apostles. Down the centuries and across the 
continents and oceans the Apostolate continues, till 
“ the consummation of the age ” (St. Matthew xxviii, 
20). Soon He will repeat this apostolic commission 
when He breathes upon them the Holy Spirit (xx, 
21, 22). But now He turns to Himself, the channel 
through whom this ministry of salvation flows forth 
from the Father. 

And for their sakes I consecrate myself , that they also 
may he consecrated in truth. Wonderful words! For 
their sakes He had come into the world and spoken as 
never man spake (vii, 46) : now for their sakes — for 
our sakes — He consecrates Himself. No other 
could do that. I cannot consecrate myself; Aaron 
could not consecrate himself. But He, who is “ a 
High Priest for ever ”, not by any succession but 
“after the order of Melchizedek ” (Hebrews vi, 20; 
vii, 2, 3), consecrates Himself. But to what end? Is 
not the Father’s mission His consecration? No; 
something more is now called for. He has fulfilled 
that mission. He has glorified the Father on the earth 
by finishing the work which He had given Him to 
do (4). There remains the glory which is attained 
in that departure from earth which is called death. 
To this He now commits Himself. But this death, 
which to ordinary observers will seem an execution, 
is in its true reality a sacrifice. The priest consecrates 
the victim; I consecrate myself. 

That they also may he consecrated in truth. His 
mission and His consecration are alike mediatorial. 
Their end is not in themselves, but in their effect, 
which is the union of those whom the Father has given 



326 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Him (6) alike with His mission and with His con- 
secration. The principle applies to all Christians, 
pre-eminently to those who are by office commissioned 
as witnesses, but by no means to them alone. 

Consecrated in truth : truly consecrated, and com- 
missioned as an agent of truth. That is our vocation; 
to most of us it is still our aspiration rather than our 
experience; the power to translate that aspiration 
into experience flows from the self-consecration of 
Christ to that perfect obedience which He con- 
summated on the Cross. 

& 

(3) The Son, the Disciples and the World (20-26) 

20-23. “ But not concerning these alone do I ask, but also concerning 
those who believe on me through their word, that they all may be 
one, as thou, Father, in me and I in thee, that they also may be in 
us, that the world may believe that thou didst send me. And the 
glory which thou hast given to me I have given to them, that they 
may be one as we are one — I in them and thou in me, that they 
may be perfected into one, that the world may come to recog- 
nise that thou didst send me and didst love them as thou didst 
love me.” 

Not concerning these alone do I ask. His prayer was 
for the disciples for their own sake, but also for the 
sake of others whom they would win to disciple- 
ship. We are to our Lord at once ends in ourselves, 
and means to other ends; it is dangerous for us to 
forget either. But also concerning those who believe on 
me through their word. Who believe ; present tense; 
wherever there is a true disciple, there are others whom 
he has won or is winning. The circle of the Church 
widens for ever from the moment of the Incarnation 
till it reaches the limits of the world. Through their 
word — for “ belief cometh of hearing, and hearing 
by the word of Christ ” {Romans x, 17), the word 
which the Father gave to the Son and the Son to His 
disciples (8, 14). That they all may be one — the 


CHAPTER XVII 


327 

spiritual unity which is perfect mutual love is to include 
these newer converts also and bind them into that 
fellowship which answers to the perfection of love in 
the Godhead — as thou, Father, in me and I in thee , 
that they also may he in us. 

Once again we are reminded how transcendent is 
that theme which alone deserves the name of Chris- 
tian unity. We meet in committees and construct 
our schemes of union; in face of the hideous fact of 
Christian divisions we are driven to this; but how 
paltry are our efforts compared with the call of God! 
The way to the union of Christendom does not lie 
through committee-rooms, though there is a task of 
formulation to be done there. It lies through personal 
union with the Lord so deep and real as to be com- 
parable with His union with the Father. For the 
prayer is not directly that believers may be “ one ” in 
the Father and the Son, though by a natural error an 
early scribe introduced that thought. The prayer is 
that they may he in us. If we are in the Father and the 
Son, we certainly shall be one, and our unity will 
increase our effective influence in the world. But 
it is not our unity as such that has converting power; 
it is our incorporation into the true Vine as branches 
in which the divine life is flowing. When all believers 
are truly “ in Christ ”, then their witness will have 
its destined effect — that the world may believe that 
thou didst send me. 

For the salvation of the world is the goal. God so 
loved the world (iii, 1 6). The divine “ election ” (/ 
chose you out of the world, xv, 19), whereby some 
have spiritual opportunities which are denied to others, 
does not operate for the sake of the elect alone; they 
have those opportunities in order that, by use of them, 
they may win others to the divine love. The purpose 
of election, as of judgement, is “ that he might have 
mercy upon all ” ( Romans xi, 32). The Father sent 
the Son, the Son sent the Apostles, the Apostles sent 


328 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

those who should carry on the message till at last the 
world should believe — what? That the Father sent 
the Son. For in this Mission lies the one hope of the 
world; and the world’s supreme need is to discover 
that its hope lies there. 

Now the condition and consequence of this perfect 
unity are unfolded. And the glory which thou hast 
given to me I have given to them. We know now what 
that glory is — absolute love in perfect self-expression; 
this, in face of the selfishness of the world, is the Cross, 
but when the divine love has by its self-sacrifice won 
its response, it is the perfect happiness of love given 
and returned. This, of which the Cross is one aspect 
and the New Jerusalem is the other aspect, is what the 
Father eternally bestows upon the Son, and the Son 
historically bestows upon His disciples. 

The purpose and consequence of that gift of glory 
is that the unity of the Godhead may be reproduced 
in them — in us — that they may he one as we are one. 
The possibility of this, which seems so unattainable, 
is grounded in the position and work of Christ as the 
perfect Mediator — I in them and thou in me (for the 
Father: the Son : : the Son : His disciples); and this 
unity is, after all, the fulfilment of their own destiny: 
that they may be perfected into one. That fellowship of 
love is the end for which we were created and for 
which our nature as God fashioned it is designed. 
By His Incarnation the Lord Jesus not only cancels 
the consequences of sin and eliminates sin itself, but 
carries forward the purpose of God in the creation of 
man to its fulfilment. The word translated perfected 
does not primarily suggest ethical perfection but com- 
plete realisation of ideal or type; a fair rendering of 
the original would be : that they may become full grown 
into one. 

Plainly this purpose of God in creation cannot be 
complete in a selection of individuals. So we return 
to the great hope that the world may come to recognise 



CHAPTER XVII 


3 2 9 

that thou didst send me\ only now it is recognise , not 
believe as in 2 1 ; for now there is offered something 
for the world to see, namely the glory which the Father 
gave to the Son, and the Son to the disciples (22), the 
glory which is absolute love in perfect self-expression. 
So through the perfecting into one of the disciples and 
their converts (23) the world is enabled progressively 
to recognise the divine activity at work — that thou 
didst send me , but also that thou didst love them as thou 
didst love me. It is the manifestation of God’s love 
toward us in our mutual love which shall at last convert 
the world. 

* 

24. “ Father, as for that which thou hast given to me — I will that 
where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold the 
glory that is mine, which thou hast given to me because thou Iovedst 
me before the foundation of the world. ” 

Father: the simple address without epithet (con- 
trast 1 1 and 25) suggests the intimately personal 
nature of this prayer. He does not now ask, but 
states a desire or longing for the eternal companion- 
ship of His friends in the Father’s presence. He has 
given to them the glory which He received from the 
Father (22), and now yearns for fellowship with them 
in the fruition of it. As for that which thou hast given 
to me: again, as in 2 and vi, 37 and 39, the neuter 
singular is substituted for the masculine plural to sug- 
gest the unity of the fellowship which was the Father’s 
gift to the Son. I will that where I am they also may 
be with me. He came not to do His own will; 
but He knows that this for which He longs is 
the Father’s will; so at the height of His prayer of 
self-dedication He can present to the Father His own 
desire. Indeed it is only at such a moment, when 
we have no desire which is not His, that we can 
safely and confidently present in our prayers our own 
desires. 



33 o READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

That they may behold the glory that is mine. The 
word behold is that which we have often rendered by 
“ notice ” or “ take note of Here the more exalted 
tone is essential, but the idea is still that of careful 
attention, which, in this case, must be adoring con- 
templation. The glory that is mine; for it is not what 
any had ever dared to call “ glory ” before*, yet 
beside it the lustre of all other glory is tarnished and 
tawdry. This glory is not His own; it shines through 
Him (i, 14); it is the Father’s gift — which thou hast 
given to me because thou lovedst me before the foundation 
of the world. The perfect love of the Father for the Son 
and of the Son for the Father — which is the Holy 
Spirit — is the glory of the Godhead. It is eternal. 
In the earthly sojourn of the Son it is historically dis- 
closed; but itself it is eternal — before the world was 
(5), before the foundation of the world (24). 

The prayer of the Lord for His disciples is that they 
may behold , may contemplate with adoration, that 
glory. Is there an element of hope for His own 
delight in their full understanding of Him? There is 
no reason to exclude that thought, for such delight 
is a fruit of love. But His longing that they may be 
with Him and behold the glory which the Father 
eternally bestows on Him is not chiefly for His sake 
but for theirs ; for this is the Vision of God, the Beatific 
Vision, the infinite joy of the finite soul. 

25-26. “Righteous Father, the world did not recognise thee, but I 
recognised thee and these recognised that thou didst send me. And 
I made known to them thy Name and will make it known, that the 
love wherewith thou lovedst me may be in them and I in them. ” 

Righteous Father: the more personal appeal is made 
and ended. Now He addresses the Father as righteous 
or “ just ”, because He must needs return from the 
ultimate hope of a converted and believing world 



CHAPTER XVII 


33i 

(23) to the immediate need of the present. The 
world still rejects the light, and only the Lord and His 
disciples have recognised the Father — He by direct 
vision, they through the manifestation in the Incarnate 
Son (vi, 46 and xiv, 9). It is justice which requires a 
discrimination between the world and the disciples, so 
that here again as earlier (9) the Lord’s concern is for 
these, that the divine love and the Lord Himself may 
be in them. The world did not recognise thee; the 
opportunity was given, but the blind world could not 
take it. But I recognised thee; the Lord’s unique 
apprehension of the Father is the basis of all know- 
ledge of God that comes through the revelation in 
the Son. And these recognised that thou didst send me; 
they have not been blind to the revelation, though as 
yet their understanding of it is limited to a realisation 
that their Lord is one sent from God (xvi, 30). The 
Lord has set the truth before them; but they have 
not yet fully grasped it; so He will continue to set it 
before them; indeed His supreme disclosure of it is 
now imminent. I made known to them thy Name; the 
Name is the manifested character. His whole life 
and teaching has been making this known; but there 
remains a still fuller manifestation. God so loved the 
world (iii, 16); the disciples had not yet seen fully 
how He loved; that was only now about to appear; 
not yet can the Revealer cry It is finished (xix, 30); and 
so I made known to them thy Name and will make it 
known — upon the Cross. 

And what is the purpose of that revelation? 
Nothing less than this: that the love wherewith thou 
lovedst me — the very life of Triune Godhead — - may 
be in them and I in them. We are called to be “ par- 
takers of the divine nature ” ( II Peter i, 4), of that 
love which is the essence of Deity. This becomes 
possible through the indwelling in us of the Son — I 
in them — not by any spontaneous or laborious ascent 
of our own spirits. How then does the Love of God 



332 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

effect His entrance into our self-centred and hardened 
hearts? If we read on we shall see. 

# 

viii, I. When he had said these things Jesus went forth with his 
disciples over the brook Kedron, where was a garden, into which he 
entered, himself and his disciples. 

That garden was Gethsemane. 



ACT IY 

THE CONFLICT OF LIGHT WITH DARKNESS 
Chapters XVIII and XIX 


(1) The Arrest — XVIII, i-ii 

(2) The Ecclesiastical Trials — XVIII, 12-27 

(3) The Trial before Pilate — XVIII, 28-XIX, 16 

(4) The Crucifixion XIX, 17-37 




THE CONFLICT OF LIGHT WITH 
DARKNESS 

Hitherto the Evangelist has told his story with its 
spiritual meaning for every reader foremost in his 
mind. He has recorded acts of the Lord, but always 
for the sake of a lesson taught by them — a lesson 
brought out by a discourse contained in the narrative 
itself, as the discourse on the Bread of Life draws out 
the meaning of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. 
The whole section which I have called Act III 
(Chapters XIII— XVII) consists of discourse, though 
in Chapter XIII this is connected with the Feet Wash- 
ing; and in those discourses as thus recorded the 
living Lord is speaking to our souls, as once He spoke 
to the disciples and to His Father. 

But now, in Act IV (Chapters XVIII and XIX) 
and in Act V (Chapter XX) we have narrative without 
any interpreting discourse. It is possible, no doubt, to 
seek personal application here as elsewhere, to con- 
sider how far the sin of Judas or Peter or Caiaphas or 
Pilate is to be found in our own hearts; and this is 
profitable in its place. But it seems that St. John would 
here direct our minds away from ourselves altogether 
to the Lord; we are now not to meditate, but to con- 
template; for the crisis of this world (XII) is come, and 
the conflict between light and darkness is being fought 
out, until the Victor cries “ It is finished ” (XIX), even 
until His victory is made manifest (XX). What most 
benefits us now is not to seek “ personal applications ’* 
but to become wholly concentrated upon the Word of 
God as He goes forth “ to judge and to make war ” 
{Revelation x ix, 1 1). 

Consequently we shall follow St. John’s own lead 
and from this point onwards seek only to understand 
the objective fact itself — the fact which justified the 
triumphant cry, It is finished. 



CHAPTER XVIII 


(i) The Arrest (i-ii) 

1 - When he had said these things Jesus went forth with his disciples 
over the brook Kedron, where was a garden, into which he entered, 
himself and his disciples. 

Jesus went forth from the Temple Court where He 
had consecrated Himself, to the garden where in natural 
reaction from the mood of exaltation He must face the 
stark reality of what, by His own choice, awaits Him, 
We know the prayer that He uttered in that garden, 
and the stress which accompanied it {St. Mark xiv, 
32-36; St. Luke xxii, 39-44). St. John does not record 
the prayer, but he alludes to it (11). It is enough to 
say that He went across the brook Kedron, where was 
a garden. 

% 

2- 1 x. And Judas also who was betraying him knew the place, because 
many a time Jesus and his disciples assembled there. So Judas, 
having received the cohort and officers from the chief priests and 
from the Pharisees, cometh thither with torches and lanterns and 
weapons. Jesus, therefore, knowing all the things that were coming 
upon him, went forth and said to them u Whom seek ye? ” They 
answered him “ Jesus of Nazareth 55 . He said to them “ I am he 
(And there stood with them also Judas who was betraying him.) 
When therefore he said to them “ I am he ” they went backwards 
and fell to the ground. Again therefore he asked them “ Whom 
seek ye? ” And they said “ Jesus of Nazareth ”♦ Jesus answered 
“ I told you that I am he; if then it is I whom ye seek, let these go 
their way ” (that the word might be fulfilled which he said, u Those 
whom thou hast given me, I destroyed of them not one ”). Simon 
Peter, therefore, having a sword drew it and struck the high priest’s 
slave and cut off his right ear; and the name of the slave was Malchus. 
Jesus therefore said to Peter “ Put the sword into the sheath; the 
cup which my Father has given me, am I not to drink it? ” 

336 



CHAPTER XVIII 


337 

Judas who was betraying him ; the tense in the original 
emphasises the fact that judas was at that moment en- 
gaged on his work of treason ; it is not a mere descrip- 
tion of him as the traitor. The Lord had often used 
this garden as a place of resort and rendezvous. He 
does not go there because the traitor will look 
there first; but neither does He avoid it for that 
reason. He goes His own way, and lets Judas act 
as he will. 

Judas has been to the Sanhedrin and has received 
from them not only their own “ officers ”, that is, the 
Temple police, but also a contingent of troops from 
Fort Antonia — the cohort — for the loan of which the 
chief priests must have already made arrangements 
with Pilate. As they approach, the Lord arouses His 
sleeping disciples (St. Mark xiv, 41-43) and goes 
forth to meet them. They had come prepared to 
search for Him in the bushes of the garden ; otherwise, 
with the full moon shining, there would be no use for 
torches and lanterns. But there is no need to search. 
The Lord knows all that is coming upon Him. He 
has faced it all, and is assured that it is the Father’s 
will; therefore He accepts it, and makes even His 
arrest a willing offering: Jesus , knowing all the things 
that were coming upon him , went forth and said to them 
“ Whom seek ye? ” He comes forth, as one disturbed 
in meditation, to ask what this turmoil means. At 
first He is not recognised; instead of saying “ We 
seek you ”, they answered him , “ Jesus of Nazareth ”. 
The name is partly description, partly an expression 
of contempt; the latter element is emphasised by the 
actual expression used — Jesus the Nazarene. He 
saith to them “ I am he" or “ 1 am" ; again we have 
the phrase which may mean no more than “ I am 
the man you describe ”, as in ix, 9, but may also 
be the sacred Name of God. To the soldiers it meant 
the former; to us it means also the latter. We are the 
world to whom our God comes forth in the Person of 



338 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Jesus the Nazarene saying “ Whom seek ye? ” The 
world is groping after its true leader; He offers Him- 
self; and the world, after yielding for a moment to 
the impact of His divinity, arrests Him and cruci- 
fies Him. 

The course chosen by the Lord in thus offering 
Himself to them has put Judas out of action. He had 
given the sign that would indicate the Prisoner (St. 
Mark xiv, 44); but there is no need of that. For the 
moment he can do nothing but stand there with the 
rest, and the Beloved Disciple saw him: there stood 
with them also Judas who was betraying him. 

The effect of the Lord’s words, and His dignity as 
He exposes Himself to His enemies, overpower them 
for the moment. They drop back, and some even fall 
down as the crowd shrinks away from the helpless yet 
dominating Figure: when therefore he said to them 
“ I am he ” they went backwards and fell to the ground. 
The Lord therefore repeats his question — “ Whom 
seek ye? ” They are able to repeat their answer — 
“ Jesus of Nazareth ”. Jesus answered , “ I told you 
that I am he; if then it is I whom ye seek , let these go their 
way He alone is able now to bear what is coming; 
He will not have His disciples involved. Peter’s loyal 
action, about to be recorded, is quite as far from the 
divine purpose in this scene as are his disloyal words 
in the court of the High Priest’s house. The disciples 
must be protected, not only from the physical danger 
but from the insidious spiritual perils that accompanied 
it. Here was one instance of the care of the Good 
Shepherd for His flock, justifying the claim “ Those 
whom thou hast given me , I destroyed of them not one ” 
(xvii, 12). The Greek means more than lost, but 
hardly so much as destroyed ; it does, however, represent 
an action on the part of the Lord, not a deprivation in 
which He was purely passive. The change of phrase 
from not one of them perished or was destroyed to I 
destroyed or lost not one is appropriate. If the Lord had 



CHAPTER XVIII 


339 

at this stage associated the disciples with Himself, He 
would have been exposing them to trials beyond their 
strength, and would have become responsible for their 
failure. 

It was, no doubt, at this point that Judas came for- 
ward and carried out his promise to the soldiers. His 
kiss was not only traitorous but futile, for the Lord 
has not left it to Judas to make known his identity. 
With Judas come the soldiers and the officers of the 
Temple police. In the turmoil Simon Peter having a 
sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave and cut 
off his right ear. He had declared his readiness to give 
his life for his Master (xiii, 37), and now he shews 
that this was true; he begins to fight though the odds 
against him are overwhelming. He draws his sword — 
there were only two swords among them all {St. Luke 
xxii, 38), but we are not surprised that Simon Peter 
had one of them — and slashes at one of the new- 
comers. It is not a soldier at all, but only a slave of 
the High Priest. The slave swings aside, and the 
blow aimed at the crown of his head cuts off his ear. 
The name of the slave was Malchus ; a realistic touch 
due to the memory of an eye-witness who knew the 
High Priest’s household (see 15); but perhaps this 
Malchus was known in the early Church as a convert, 
so that his name was a matter of general interest; that 
the action of the Lord in healing his wound at such a 
moment {St. Luke xxii, 51) should begin the process of 
his conversion is easily intelligible; but of all this we 
have no evidence. 

The words of the Lord are sublime: Put the sword 
into the sheath ; the cup which my Father has given me, 
am I not to drink it? We recall the prayer that this 
Cup might pass from Him; we recall the Agony and 
Bloody Sweat; but He knows that the Father Himself 
is offering the Cup; none shall hinder His drinking it. 



340 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

(2) The Ecclesiastical Trials (12-27) 

12-14. The cohort, therefore, and the captain and the officers of the 
Jews seized Jesus and bound him, and led him to Annas first; for he 
was father-in-law to Caiaphas, who was high priest that year; and 
Caiaphas was he who counselled the Jews that it was expedient that 
one man should die on behalf of the people. 

The Roman troops and their commanding officer, 
with the Temple police, make the arrest and bind their 
Prisoner according to their custom; no more need be 
intended than a binding of the hands behind the back 
— the equivalent to our handcuffs. Then they led him 
to Annas first. Only St. John tells this; it is one of the 
facts recorded by him alone which make intelligible 
the Synoptic narrative where it otherwise would be, 
at best, obscure (see Introduction, pp. xi and xii). St. 
Mark records a trial before the High Priest during the 
night (St. Mark xiv, 53-65) followed by a “ consulta- 
tion ” of the “ chief priests with the elders and scribes 
and the whole council ” in the morning (xv, 1). This 
is possible, but not easily intelligible. St. John tells 
us that the earlier trial was an informal enquiry at the 
house of Annas, at which the decision was reached, 
though sentence could not there be pronounced. Then, 
very early in the morning, the Sanhedrin met in full 
session and rapidly confirmed in legal verdict and 
sentence what had been informally decided during the 
night. (St. Luke, who does not record the informal 
enquiry, is probably right in saying the crucial ques- 
tion (xxii, 67 and 70) was put in the later and formal 
trial; but this would be a repetition of what had 
happened earlier: cf. St. Mark xiv, 61 and 62; and 
St. Matthew xxvi, 63 and 64. St. Mark and St. Luke 
give no name to the High Priest in whose house the 
earlier enquiry took place (xiv, 53); St. Matthew by a 
natural mistake inserts the name of Caiaphas (xxvi, 57). 
In fact this enquiry took place at the house of Annas, 
as St. John is careful to make plain.) 



CHAPTER XVIII 


34i 

He was father-in-law to Caiaphas , who was high 
■priest that year ; so St. John accounts for the fact that 
he presided over this informal enquiry. He had been 
High Priest himself, and was head of the high-priestly 
family. Moreover, he controlled from the background 
his various sons and sons-in-law who successively held 
the office. But there may be more involved than this. 
Annas was deposed from the office of High Priest by 
Valerius Gratus, the predecessor of Pilate as Pro- 
curator of Judaea. It is possible that he himself and 
a section of Jewish opinion regarded this act as an 
unwarrantable intrusion of the secular State in the 
affairs of the Church, and consequently held that he 
was still de jure High Priest. The acts of Rome must 
needs be accepted for all legal transactions ; but it may 
be that the assent of Annas was thought necessary to 
give spiritual validity to the acts of the Sanhedrin, 
even though Caiaphas presided at its formal session. 
This would account for the very curious expressions 
in St. Luke iii, 2 (“ under the high-priesthood of Annas 
and Caiaphas ”), and Acts iv, 6 (“ Annas the high priest 
was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander and 
as many as were of the kindred of the high priest ”). 

The mention of Caiaphas revives the memory of 
that cynic’s counsel which was unwittingly a state- 
ment of divine truth (xi, 50) : it is expedient that one man 
should die on behalf of the people. Both his cynicism and 
the divine truth are now to be displayed openly. 

* 

St. Peter’s First Denial 

15-18. And there followed Jesus Simon Peter and another disciple. 
That disciple was known to the high priest and went in with Jesus 
into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing at the 
door outside. So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high 
priest, went out and spoke to the door-keeper and brought in Peter. 
The maid who kept the door saith therefore to Peter “ Thou art 
not, surely, also one of this man’s disciples? ” He said “ I am not ”, 


342 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

And there were standing there the slaves and the officers, having 
made a fire of charcoal, because it was cold; and they were warming 
themselves; and there was also Peter among them, standing and 
warming himself. 

The story is very vivid, though one point in it is 
notoriously difficult. After the arrest, when all the 
disciples “ left him and fled ” (St. Mark xiv, 50), St. 
Peter “ followed afar off” (St. Mark xiv, 54). So much 
St. Mark knew from St. Peter’s narration of his own 
recollection ; also that somehow St. Peter found access 
to the courtyard of the High Priest. St. John tells us 
that another disciple followed with Peter; no doubt 
this is the Beloved Disciple, John the son of Zebedee. 
But he goes on — that disciple was known to the high 
priest. This phrase has been much discussed, and is 
the point of notorious • difficulty referred to above. 
But John the son of Zebedee was, on his mother’s side, 
of priestly descent; his mother was Salome, the sister 
of the Virgin Mary; they were related to Elizabeth, 
who is described as “ of the daughters of Aaron ” 
(St. Luke i, 5). It is possible at least that* John came 
at times to perform priestly duties at Jerusalem, and 
that this is the origin of the statement of Polycrates 
that he was a priest and wore the Petalon — a gold 
plate attached to the front of the priestly turban or 
mitre (Exodus xxviii, 36); the same is said of St. James 
the Just (a “ brother ” of the Lord) and of St. Mark- 
the latter is shewn to be of Levite connexion by the 
comparison of Acts iv, 36 and Colossians iv, 10). But 
even if St. John was not himself a priest, he may have 
been often in Jerusalem, and had opportunity to become 
known to the High Priest; there was much commerce 
between the fishermen of Galilee and the capital; some 
have suggested that this family, which was sufficiently 
prosperous to employ hired servants, had an establish- 
ment in Jerusalem to which St. John was commonly 
attached. 

All of this is speculation, but supplies reason for 



CHAPTER XVIII 


343 

accepting without hesitation the simple statement of 
fact that that disciple was known to the high priest , so 
that the door-keeper readily admitted him among 
those who followed Jesus into the courtyard of the high- 
priest. It is likely that this was a courtyard into which 
different houses opened, one being that of Annas, 
another that of Caiaphas. When St. John had made 
his way in among the crowd, and was able to take note 
of what had happened, he found that the admission 
allowed to himself had been refused to the markedly 
Galilean Peter (St. Mark xiv, 70), so that Peter was 
(still) standing at the door outside. So St. John used the 
opportunity due to the fact that he was an acquaint- 
ance of the High Priest to speak to the door-keeper 
and get leave to bring in Peter. The maid knew, pre- 
sumably, that St. John was a disciple and says in 
effect “ Surely you are not another of them? ” The 
form of question is that which “ expects the answer 
No”; but it is satirically spoken ; the combination of 
the form and the tone constitutes a temptation which 
finds Peter unprepared; and he slides into the place 
prepared for him: “Not another, surely”; “Oh, 
no ”. So sudden and so easy! But now it will be very 
hard to go back and give the loyal answer when the 
direct challenge comes (25-27). 

We do not always see how unwitting was Peter’s 
first denial. Of course a perfect loyalty would have 
avoided it. But we all know with what fatal ease we 
accept a position prepared for us if it is presented 
suddenly and offers a refuge from many troubles. And 
then the harm is done! The act seemed so nearly 
innocent; the avoidance of its guilty consequence is 
so very hard. 

Anyhow, Peter is there now among the slaves and 
the officers , that is, the Temple police; it is cold and 
they have made a fire; and Peter was there with them, 
standing and warming himself 


344 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

19-24. The high priest, therefore, asked Jesus about his disciples and 
his teaching. Jesus answered him “ I have spoken openly to the 
world; I always taught in synagogue and in the temple, where all 
the Jews come together, and in secret I spake nothing. Why dost 
thou ask me? Ask them who have heard what I spake to them; 
behold, they know the things which I said.” And when he had 
said these things, one who was standing by, one of the officers, struck 
Jesus with his open hand, saying u Is that the way for thee to answer 
the high priest? ” Jesus answered him, “ If I spake ill, bear witness 
of the ill; but if well, why dost thou smite me? ” So Annas sent him 
bound to Caiaphas the high priest. 

The purpose of this informal enquiry is to find 
evidence which can be presented at the formal session 
of the Sanhedrin a few hours later, so that a verdict 
and sentence can then be pronounced at once, and the 
case sent on to Pilate. The only charge that is likely 
to move Pilate to action is that of sedition ; and it was 
a political argument to which he ultimately yielded 
(xix, 12). So the first point of enquiry concerns the 
disciples, and what was the teaching given to them: 
the high -priest asked Jesus about his disciples and his 
teaching. Of course he hoped by cross-examination to 
elicit something which would shew that the Lord was 
training a group of rebels. The Triumphal Entry 
had looked like a serious rising and had created con- 
sternation . among the Pharisees (xi, x 9). But the 
Lord’s answer gives him no ground for encourage- 
ment. Instead of answering the question, he challenges 
the method of the enquiry. The proper course was to 
formulate a charge and call witnesses, when (incident- 
ally) the Jewish custom would require witnesses for 
the defence to be called first. What Annas is attempt- 
ing is to inveigle the Prisoner into giving evidence 
against Himself. This He will not do. In His 
answer the first pronoun is very emphatic: “ I am not 
a secret conspirator”; I have spoken openly to the 
world. I always taught in synagogue and in the temple 
(as we might say, in Church or in the Cathedral), 
where all the Jews come together, and in secret I spake 



CHAPTER XVIII 


345 

nothing . The teaching given in the Upper Room and 
in the Temple Court, contained in Chapters XIII to 
XVII, was in substance no more than an articulation 
of what He had often said in public. So there are no 
secrets to be disclosed. If Annas wishes for evidence 
about His teaching, he can obtain it in the usual 
way. Ask them who have heard what (it was that) 1 
spake to them; behold , they know the things which I said. 

That this enquiry was irregular and informal is 
proved by the next episode; it is incredible that one 
of the police should smack the prisoner’s face (for 
that is what the words mean) during a formal trial 
before the Sanhedrin. When he had said these things , 
one who was standing by , one of the officers , struck Jesus 
with his open hand , saying “ Is that the way for thee to 
answer the high priest P ” The Lord remains perfectly 
calm, recalling the policeman, as He had recalled the 
High Priest, to the method appropriate to a legal 
enquiry: If I spake ill , bear witness of the ill ; but if 
well , why dost thou smite me ? 

St. John does not recall the rest of the trial — either 
the attempt to find witnesses who can prove that Jesus 
was preparing a riot aiming at the destruction of 
the Temple, which He would then replace with a 
miraculous structure of His own (St. Mark xiv, 58), 
though he has told us of the saying of Jesus which was 
twisted into this (ii, 19); or the direct question of 
the High Priest, though to this too he alludes, in so 
far as the Jews demand of Pilate the death-penalty 
because of the Lord’s claim to be the Son of God 
(xix, 7). Though this latter is not what would be most 
welcome for submission to Pilate, it can be made to 
serve, for it can be twisted into a political charge (com- 
pare xix, 7, with xix, 12). So Annas sent him bound to 
Caiaphas the high priest. 


346 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

St. Peter’s Later Denials 

25-27. And there was Simon Peter standing and warming himself. 
They said to him therefore “ Surely thou art not also one of his 
disciples? ” That man denied it and said “ I am not ”. There 
saith one of the slaves of the high priest, being a kinsman of him 
whose ear Peter cut off, “ Did not I see thee in the garden with him? ” 
Again therefore Peter denied, and immediately a cock crew. 

We are taken back to the courtyard where Peter 
is standing with the rest. One of these asks him the 
same question as the maid had put to him — again 
with the suggestion that he is not one of the disciples; 
and again he yields to the suggestion. But then one 
notices him who recalls his features; he had seen that 
face in the garden; but Peter again denies. And 
immediately the cock crew. 

St. John has a double purpose in this narrative — 
first, to point out the contrast between the serene calm 
of the Lord, whose constancy was leading Him to 
torture and death, and the frightened inconstancy of 
the disciple, who had nothing worse to fear than 
mockery; secondly, to offer some excuse for Simon 
Peter by shewing how easy it was for him to slip. 
With the first object in view he breaks the story of the 
denials into two parts, and takes us backwards and 
forwards between the room where the Lord stands 
with bound hands before Annas and the courtyard 
where Peter stretches out his free hands to the charcoal 
fire in the brazier. With the second object, he gives 
the actual tone of the first two questions to Peter, and 
passes rapidly over his actual fall; there is no word 
here of cursing and swearing, as there was in Peter’s 
own story of his shame (St. Mark xiv, 71). St. John 
does not want to exhibit St. Peter’s shame, but to 
warn us by his example how very easily we slide 
towards denial of our Lord. 

Everyone who has found himself “ in a tight place ” 
and seized an unexpected opportunity of escape will 
recognise the difference in the force of temptation 



CHAPTER XVIII 347 

latent in the two forms of question, “ You aren’t one 
of them, are you? ” and “ You are one of them, aren’t 
you? ” To deny the second is to refuse a direct 
challenge; it was what Peter did the third time. To 
accept the suggestion of the first is scarcely more than 
a refusal to look for trouble. The suggestion is that he 
is not likely to be a disciple, and no one will suppose 
he is unless he says so; he had little more to do than 
to let well alone. But that little more is fatal If the 
third question had come first, perhaps he could have 
met it with truth and loyalty. Peter was not one to be 
browbeaten into apostasy! But he was one to fear 
laughter, and to take a way of avoiding it when it was 
offered him. 

Meanwhile the Lord was being sent from Annas to 
Caiaphas, that is, to the Sanhedrin where Caiapjhas 
is president. He must pass through the courtyard, 
and on the way “ the Lord turned and looked on 
Peter”. At the same moment a cock crew (2,7; 
St. Luke xxii, 60). 

Probably the cock’s crow was not the cry of a 
bird but the trumpet sounding the “ cock-crow ” 
which marked the transition from the third watch of 
the night, called “ Cock-crowing ”, to the fourth, called 
“ Early ”; the four night watches were Late, Mid- 
night, Cock-crowing and Early. This makes the 
Lord’s prediction in xiii, 38, more natural; before 
“ cock-crowing ” was a definite indication of time. 

Time had been carefully calculated; it was im- 
portant to secure Pilate’s sentence early, so that the 
actual crucifixion should be carried through and finished 
before the day of the feast should begin at 6 p.m. (cf. 
xix, 31). The proceedings in the Sanhedrin would 
be very short — just the one question, “ Art thou the 
Christ? ” which the Prisoner cannot refuse to answer, 
and by answering which He must involve himself in 
the guilt of blasphemy. So at the moment of “ cock- 
crow ”, as the sound of the trumpet rings out, the 


348 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

enquiry before Annas is closed; the Sanhedrin meets 
— it is the earliest hour at which a condemnation to 
death would be technically legal; and at once the 
Prisoner is led to Pilate, in that phase of the night 
which the trumpet ushers in and which is called 
Early. 

* 

(3) The Trial before Pilate (xviii, 28-xix, 16) 

The trial before Pilate is divided into sections by 
the movements of Pilate in and out of the Praetorium. 
Westcott describes them as follows : 

1. Without the Praetorium. The Jews claim the execution 

of their sentence (xviii, 28-32). 

2. Within the Praetorium. “ The good confession.” 

Christ a King (33-37). 

3. Without the Praetorium. First declaration of innocence. 

Barabbas (38-40). 

4. Within the Praetorium. Scourging; mockery (xix, 1-3). 

5. Without the Praetorium. Second and third declarations 

of innocence. “Ecce Homo”; “Son of God” (4-7). 

6. Within the Praetorium. The source of authority and 

from this the measure of guilt (8-1 1). 

7. Without the Praetorium. Conviction overpowered: the 

King abj ured : the last sentence ( 1 2- 1 6). 

1. Without the Praetorium. The Jews claim the 
execution of their sentence (xviii, 28-32): 

They lead Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the palace; and it was 
Early; and themselves they did not enter into the palace, that they 
might not be defiled but might eat the Passover. Pilate therefore 
went out to them outside, and saith “ What accusation do ye bring 
against this man? ” They answered and said to him “ If this man 
were not doing evil, we should not have delivered him to thee 
Pilate therefore saith to them “ Take him yourselves, and according 
to your law judge him The Jews said to him “ To us it is not 
allowed to put anyone to death ” — that the word of Jesus might be 
fulfilled which he said signifying by what manner of death he was 
about to die. 



CHAPTER XVIII 


349 

They lead Jesus therefore from Caiaphas to the -palace , 
that is, from the Court of the Sanhedrin to the Prae- 
torium, the house of the Governor. And it was Early ; 
it was, in fact, a little after 3 a.m., at which hour the 
trumpet had sounded Cock-crow. And themselves they 
did not enter into the palace , that they might not he defiled 
but might eat the Passover. They were demanding the 
crucifixion of the Lord of Glory, but of course no one 
thought of that as defilement; to enter the heathen 
ruler’s house would be defilement! (A besetting sin 
of all of us, who are concerned with the ordering of 
religious life and worship, is the loss of proportion and 
perspective, and the attribution of primary importance 
to secondary or even to tertiary and quaternary con- 
cerns!) But as they would not go in, Pilate must 
needs come out, and his frequent movements back- 
wards and forwards are due to their scrupulosity. It 
is natural to suppose that this added to Pilate’s con- 
temptuous irritation, and made him the more deter- 
mined to impose upon these tiresome priests a good 
deal of humiliation before he granted their request. 
Pilate therefore went out to them outside , and saith 
“ What accusation do ye bring against this man ? ” 

Pilate must have known that the chief priests were 
going to bring before him a man whose execution 
would be demanded. He had lent troops to assist in 
the arrest; and he is ready at this early hour to hear 
the case. But he is now to act as judge; he must hear 
the charge and the defence. Probably he expected a 
charge of sedition already heard and decided by the 
Sanhedrin; in that case his own enquiry need not 
take long; but a definite accusation must be made. 
There is no reason to suppose that Pilate begins with 
any other expectation than a speedy verdict of guilty 
and sentence of death — though it is possible that 
already he was uneasy as a result of his wife’s message 
(St. Matthew xxvii, 19). 

Unfortunately for them, the chief priests have no 



350 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

such charge to bring forward as will at all certainly 
lead Pilate to pronounce the death-sentence on which 
they are determined. So they try to avoid stating a 
definite charge at all. They have held a trial themselves 
and have found the Prisoner guilty of evil-doing; that 
is enough; Pilate has only to ratify their findings: If 
this man were not doing evil we should not have delivered 
him to thee. 

(Doing evil! 

Why, what hath my Lord done? 

What makes this rage and spite? 

He made the lame to run, 

He gave the blind their sight. 

Sweet injuries! 

Yet they at these 
Themselves displease 
And ’gainst him rise. 1 ) 

Pilate was cynical and cruel, but he was not stupid, 
and no Roman governor could be without some sense 
of the majesty of Roman law. That law entrusted 
the death penalty to no local or “ native ” court, but 
reserved it to the representative of Rome. It was not 
unknown for a High Priest to be deposed for inflicting 
it. If so, it could not be consonant with the law that 
the Governor should inflict that penalty at the demand 
of the local court without any further trial held by 
himself. The reply of the chief priests was, in fact, a 
piece of impertinence with which Pilate was very com- 
petent to deal. He says in effect “Very well; if you 
want the matter settled by the verdict of your court, 
let that court pronounce sentence ”, knowing, of course, 
that their court could not pronounce sentence of death : 
Take him yourselves and according to your law judge him. 
Now the Jews have to shew their hand, for death alone 
will satisfy them: To us it is not allowed to -put any man 
to death. This was itself a grievance, a constant re- 
minder that they were a vassal state. But the result, 

2 Samuel Crossman: see Songs of Praise , 127. 



CHAPTER XVIII 351 

as St. John points out, was that the Lord’s death when 
it came fulfilled His own prediction — He was lifted 
up from the earth (xii, 32). If the Sanhedrin condemned 
any man to death the sentence was carried out by 
stoning, as in the case of St. Stephen (which was prob- 
ably after Pilate’s disgrace, and Vitellius, who succeeded 
him, went very far in concessions to the Jewish 
authorities). None but the Roman authority could 
crucify. 

«- 

2. Within the Praetorium. “The good confes- 
sion.” Christ a King (33—37) : 

Pilate therefore went into the palace again and called Jesus and said 
to him “ Thou — art thou the King of the Jews? ” Jesus answered 
“ Of thyself dost thou say this or did others say it to thee concerning 
me? ” Pilate answered “ Am I a Jew ? The nation which is thine 
and the chief priests delivered thee to me. What didst thou do? ” 
Jesus answered “ The kingdom which is mine is not from this 
world; if from this world were the kingdom which is mine, the 
officers who are mine would be fighting that I should not be de- 
livered to the Jews; but as it is the kingdom which is mine is not 
from hence ”. Pilate therefore saith to him “ Then art thou — 
thou — a king? ” Jesus answered “ Thou sayest that I am a king. 
I to this end have been born and to this end am come into the world, 
that I may bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is from the 
truth heareth my voice.” Pilate saith to him “ What is truth? ” 

Pilate goes back into the palace; no doubt the 
soldiers have by now taken charge of the Prisoner, and 
they bring Him too. Pilate is puzzled. He knew 
that the charge was to be one of sedition; but it has 
not been made; and the Prisoner does not look like 
the leader of a serious revolution. Pilate does not con- 
stitute his court, but questions the Prisoner himself. 
The Jews had looked dangerous and if he insisted on 
sending the case back for such action as the Sanhedrin 
could take, the consequences might be grave. He 
had better keep the matter in his own hands now that 
it has reached them. So he ‘goes behind the general 



352 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

charge of “ doing evil ”, which was all that was form- 
ally presented, to that which he had been led to 
expect. Only now it seems preposterous : Thou — art 
thou the King of the Jews? The Prisoner does not look 
the sort of person to usurp a throne. Thou — the 
pronoun is so placed as to be most emphatic. It is 
evident that Pilate is already convinced that he is not 
dealing with a rebel whom Rome need fear. At first 
the Lord does not answer the question, but asks 
another. He has heard what the chief priests and Jews 
had said outside, and it contained no reference to any 
claim to Kingship. Has Pilate any information of his 
own to suggest that this claim had been made, or was 
the statement brought to him from other (that is, 
Jewish) quarters? If the former, the information can 
be tested; if the latter, the charge should be presented 
in proper form, and this the Jews have not done, for 
the very good reason that they had not been able to 
establish it. Of thyself dost thou say this? or did others 
say it to thee concerning me? No doubt the High Priest 
or his representative had said it when arrangements 
were made for the loan of the troops. But that was 
a private conversation, of which the course could not 
be conveniently made public. Pilate has recourse to 
contemptuous indignation: how should he hear of 
such things? He is not a Jew or interested in Jewish 
concerns, except so far as he had to keep that turbulent 
tribe in order. Am I a Jew? Again the pronoun is 
emphatic. He was a Roman, not one of this despised 
race. The nation which is thine and the chief priests 
delivered thee to me. What didst thou do? It was the 
Lord’s own people who had brought Him, not a 
private group of citizens but the nation as represented 
by its own leaders. If He were a champion of national 
independence they would be supporting Him; but 
somehow He has provoked them to fury: What 
didst thou do? If He is to be found guilty there must 
be an offence of which He is guilty. 



CHAPTER XVIII 


353 

The Lord’s reply takes up what is the real charge — 
that He claims to be the Son of God, the Messiah 
(xix, 7; cf. Si. Mark xiv, 61, 62). In that sense He 
does claim to be the King of Israel (i, 49); but He has 
transformed the conception of that Messianic King- 
ship. He has royalty, but not what the world means 
by royalty, for it neither proceeds from the world nor 
is recognisable by the world: The kingdom which is 
mine is not from this world. He does not claim a 
kingdom, but, so to speak, acquiesces in that descrip- 
tion of His realm ; it is a special kind of kingdom — 
the kingdom which is mine — and it is not from this 
world. He had claimed to be the Messiah; and the 
Messiah was a King — but not the sort of King 
whose dominion constituted a challenge to the political 
authority of Rome. Not from this world ; the phrase 
represents both origin and character due to origin. 
An earthly king depends for any effective authority 
upon the loyal support of his people and the force 
that they can offer in his support. The Messiah 
derives His authority from God alone. The quality of 
an earthly kingdom is, partly at least, the maintenance 
of order by the forcible coercion of malcontents; in 
the political sphere this is right, and the earthly State 
is rightly entrusted with force wherewith to uphold the 
law and prevent the lawless use of force. But the 
divine kingdom cannot be content with this; it must 
control not only outward conduct but hearts and 
wills; its authority is from God, who is Love; its 
actuality is in the willing obedience of those whose love 
has been called out in response to the manifested love 
of God. Consequently it can never fight for its 
“ vital interests ”, because by fighting it betrays them. 
The State may rightly fight in national self-defence or 
for the maintenance of the law of nations ; the Church 
may not fight, nor use for its defence or extension any 
other method than the lifting up of its King that He 
may draw all men unto Him : If from this world were 



354 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

the Kingdom which is mine, the officers who are mine 
would he fighting that I should not be delivered to the 
Jews ; but as it is the kingdom which is mine is not from 
hence. 

Who are His officers ? (The word is that used else- 
where in this narrative for the Temple police. Where- 
ever it occurs it represents the agents of a king or other 
public authority.) Can He mean the eleven disciples? 
One of them had begun to fight with precisely the object 
here mentioned. But they are evidently helpless 
against the Temple police and the Roman legionaries. 
Had He then other officers on whom He might call? 
Yes; “ more than twelve legions ” of them (St. 
Matthew xxvi, 53). But to call in the heavenly hosts, 
the “ officers ” of the “ Kingdom of Heaven ”, to act 
coercively would be to turn that Kingdom into a 
Kingdom “ from this world ”. For it is not the differ- 
ence of the supernatural from the natural that dis- 
tinguishes Christ’s Kingdom; it is the difference 
between control of conduct by force and control of 
heart and mind and will by love and truth. His 
Kingdom is not from hence. 

Pilate is baffled. It seems the Prisoner does claim 
kingship after all. Then art thou — thou — a king? 
Once more there is great emphasis on the pronoun. 
Before the Roman Governor stands a man with hands 
bound behind His back; He was arrested without 
difficulty — no more than a scuffle in which one slave 
was cut on the side of the head; He has no air of 
pomp or domination; He is, indeed, fearless, and 
answers the Governor without a trace of subservience; 
but there is nothing regal about Him : Then art thou — 
thou — a king? 

Thou sayest that I am a king ; the use of the term 
“ king ” was introduced by Pilate. It is his word, not 
the Prisoner’s. It could not be accurately accepted or 
rejected; to say No would convey one false impression, 
to say Yes would convey another. So the Lord says in 



CHAPTER XVIII 


355 

effect “ That is your expression, not mine; but here is 
an exact statement of the facts : I to this end have been 
born and to this end am come into the worlds that I may 
bear witness to the truth . Everyone that is from the truth 
heareth my voice." 

(The expression “ Thou sayest ” or “ Thou hast 
said ” is not a direct affirmative. To interpret it so in 
St. Matthew xxvi, 64 is to lose part of the meaning of 
that scene. It is neither Yes nor No, but indicates that 
while the phrase used may be quite misleading, yet 
there is a sense in which it must be accepted. The 
Lord refuses to say that He is or that He is not 
the Messiah; for that required a definition of the 
Messianic office. But He goes on to say that Daniel’s 
prophecy is now fulfilled.) 

The kingdoms which are from this world rest in part 
upon falsehood — most conspicuously upon the neces- 
sary but false, false but necessary, supposition that the 
State really acts in the interest of the whole com- 
munity, whereas in fact it always acts primarily in the 
interest of that section of the community which is 
able in practice to work its machinery. It is a pre- 
tended community; this is far better than no com- 
munity at all, which is the only actual alternative 
until the Kingdom of God is come. But that King- 
dom rests on truth — on the real constitution of the 
universe wherein God the righteous Father is supreme. 
To that truth , the real constitution of the universe, 
Christ came to bear witness ; not to beautiful dreams 
but to bed-rock reality (cf. St. Matthew vii, 24, 25). 
Everyone who is from the truth heareth my voice. From 
the truth ; the phrase answers from this world ; again the 
suggestion is of origin and character due to origin. 
It is those who are born from above who may hope to 
see the kingdom of God (iii, 3). Those whose outlook 
is directed by the truth, whose judgement springs from 
the truth, hear the voice of Christ, the truth (xiv, 6). 
So He had said that the sheep that are mine hear my 



356 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

voice (x, 27); but of others — Why do ye not recognise 
my manner of speech ? — because ye cannot hear the word 
that is mine (viii, 43). Everyone who is from the truth 
heareth my voice. 

This makes Pilate impatient, but also convinces 
him that the Prisoner is harmless. Abstractions like 
Truth have nothing to do with a trial for sedition; it 
is absurd to introduce such a topic; What is truth? ’ 
said jesting Pilate and would not stay for an answer.” 1 

But it is better to stay and wait for the answer. 
We know that answer quite well: I am the truth 
(xiv, 6). Can we say that we are of or from the truth ? 

* 

3. Without the Praetorium. First declaration of 
innocence. Barabbas (3 8-40) : 

And having said this again he went forth to the Jews and saith to them 
“ I find no crime in him. But there is a custom with you that I should 
release one prisoner to you at the Passover. Do ye wish then that 
I release to you the King of the Jews? So they shouted aloud again 
saying, “ Not this man but Barabbas and Barabbas was a robber. 

Pilate is sure the Prisoner is no criminal. He 
hopes to deal with the matter by using the custom of 
releasing one prisoner at the Passover — a strictly 
limited amnesty. It is a cynical proposal, because if 
Jesus is innocent He should be acquitted and some 
other released; the crowd is entitled to claim both 
Jesus and Barabbas. Perhaps they are irritated at this 
attempt to get out of granting the amnesty to a real 
rebel by releasing one who, Pilate says, is no rebel at 
all. They are bound to be irritated by the scorn 
implied in the use of the title which the Lord was 
accused of claiming — the King of the Jews. Pilate’s 
device is self-defeating; certainly it fails. The crowd 
will have its real rebel released: Not this man but 
Barabbas. 

1 Bacon, Essay an Truth . 



CHAPTER XVIII 


357 

Barabbas was guilty of sedition and of murder (<SV. 
Luke xxiii, 19); he was an undoubted criminal. But 
he had defied Rome, and it would be easy for the chief 
priests to persuade the crowd to demand the release 
of a bandit-patriot rather than that of One who has 
only disappointed their nationalist aspirations. Pilate is 
foiled. 

But the choice of Barabbas is more than an episode. 
It is a symbol. The world has its choice between the 
real King and the bandit chief; it chooses Barabbas — 
and Barabbas was a robber. 



CHAPTER XIX 


The Civil Trial continues 

4. Within the Praetorium. Scourging; mockery 
(i-3): 

Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers, having 
plaited a crown out of thorns put it on his head, and cast a purple 
cloak about him, and were making approach to him and saying 
“ Hail, King of the Jews ! ” and they smote him with their open 
hands. 

Pilate goes back into his palace and orders Jesus 
to be scourged, in the hope that this fearful punish- 
ment will satisfy the Jews; for a Roman scourging 
was a thing of terror. The soldiers who administer 
the torture enter with zest into a situation which 
enables them to show their scorn of the Jews. They 
take the supposed accusation in mock seriousness; 
they plait a crown or wreath of thorn-twigs to repre- 
sent the laurel-wreath of a victor; they cast about 
the lacerated body a coarse scarlet cloak in place of 
the regal purple; they advance towards Him, one as 
though to offer homage, another as though to present 
a petition, saying “ Hail, King of the Jews!” — fit 
king (they suggest) for such a people. Then rising 
from the bended knee they slap Him on the face. 

St. John records enough to emphasise the humilia- 
tion and the pain; but he does not dwell on it. No 
record is so little directed towards the harrowing of 
feelings. All attention is directed towards the bearing 
of the Sufferer. 

* 

5 . Without the Praetorium. Second and third 
declarations of innocence. “ Ecce Homo ” ; “ Son of 
God ”(4-7): 

35s 



CHAPTER XIX 


359 

And Pilate came forth, again outside and saith to them “ Behold, I 
bring him to you outside that ye may recognise that I find no crime 
in him Jesus therefore came forth outside, wearing the crown of 
thorns and the purple cloak. And he saith to them “ Behold, the 
man When therefore the chief priests and the officers saw him 
they shouted aloud, saying “ Crucify, crucify Pilate saith to them 
“ Take him yourselves and crucify him ; for I do not find crime in 
him The Jews answered him “ We have a law, and according to 
the law he ought to die, because he made himself Son of God ”. 

Pilate now comes out to make his appeal for 
sympathy. He hopes that his declaration of the 
Prisoner’s innocence, coupled with the sight of His 
tortured form, may satisfy the rage of the accusers. 
(But if He was innocent, why was He scourged ? 
Even in the method by which Pilate seeks to release 
Him there is an outrage upon justice.) So Jesus came 
forth outside , wearing the crown of thorns and the -purple 
cloak ; He is exhibited in the trappings put on Him 
for mockery; and Pilate says Behold , the Man. 

It is one of those pregnant phrases which cannot be 
translated adequately. On Pilate’s lips — and so the 
Jews would understand it — the words meant “ Look 
at the poor fellow ”. But as we hear them across the 
centuries they come charged with another meaning. 
Here, in this life of perfect obedience and love; here, 
in this courage that bears the worst that hate can do 
and is still unfalteringly calm; here, in this love that 
is unquenched and undiminished by the desertion of 
friends, by the blows and jeers of enemies — here 
we see Man fulfilling his true destiny and manifested 
as superior to circumstance. “ We see not yet all 
things subject to man. But we behold him who hath 
been made a little lower than the angels, garlanded 
for the suffering of death with glory and honour ” 
( 'Hebrews ii, 8, 9). As the victim was garlanded for 
the sacrifice, so Jesus for the Cross — with thorns of 
glory and honour. 

But the sight of their enemy, as they account Him, 
rouses the chief priests and their satellites to frenzy. 



3 6o READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

They shout aloud . . . “ Crucify , crucify ”. Pilate 
answers with a sneer: “Do it yourselves” ; for he knows 
that they cannot. They hold Him guilty, but will not 
inflict the only penalty in their power; they demand 
the death-penalty, which can only be inflicted by the 
judge who has pronounced Him innocent! “ Take 
him yourselves and crucify him ; for I do not find crime 
in him'’’ 

This drives the Jews to state what it is that they 
have really established against Him. In itself it is 
blasphemy, and for this He was sentenced to death by 
the Sanhedrin (St. Mark xiv, 61-64); and Pilate may 
not be prepared to execute for blasphemy; still, the 
claim of the Lord can be presented as constructive 
treason (12), 1 and in any case the Jewish law required 
death as the penalty for such blasphemy as was cer- 
tainly involved in the claim of Jesus — if it were not 
the truth ! We have a law , and according to the law he 
ought to die , because he made himself Son of God. Yes; 
when adjured by the High Priest in the name of the 
living God, He had made the claim that He was “ the 
Christ, the Son of the Blessed ” (St. Mark xiv, 61). 
And with the title Son of God goes the title King of 
Israel (i, 49). The Jews have at any rate stated their 
full case now. 

* 

6 . Within the Praetorium. The source of authority 
and from this the measure of guilt (8-1 x): 

When Pilate therefore heard this word he was more afraid, and went 
into the palace again and saith to Jesus “ Whence art thou? ” But 
Jesus did not give him an answer. Pilate therefore saith to him 
“ To me dost thou not speak? Knowest thou not that I have 
authority to release thee and I have authority to crucify thee? ” 
Jesus answered him “ Thou hadst not any authority against me 
unless it had been given thee from above: for this reason he that 
delivered me to thee hath greater sin ”. 

1 St. Luke represents it as so interpreted from the first: xxiii, 2. 



CHAPTER XIX 361 

Pilate has little or no respect for the Jewish law, 
which he regarded, no doubt, as the barbarous code of 
a contemptible tribe. But, like most heathen cynics, 
he has a superstitious dread of the supernatural. This 
Prisoner with His unruffled calm and His talk about 
a Kingdom of Truth is, no doubt, a fanatic; but there 
might be something abnormal and supernatural about 
Him. The title Son of God would not for Pilate bear 
the august meaning which it had for the chief priests, 
and which made the claim to it blasphemous if it was 
not true. But this Prisoner might be a son of a god — 
and the phrase used by the chief priests, where no 
definite articles are employed, can mean this; Pilate 
would not want to incur the hostility of a local deity. 
So he was more afraid than he had been till now; he 
goes inside the palace again, and asks the Prisoner 
Whence art thou? 

To that Jesus gives no answer. How could He 
give one? What is the use of saying to Pilate I came 
forth from the Father and am come into the world ? 
(xvi, 28). With his mind full of stories about gods 
who married women, and of the offspring of such 
unions, how can he begin to understand the relation 
of Jesus, Son of God, to the Father? 

Pilate is vexed by His silence; it is in effect con- 
tempt of court. To me dost thou not speak? It is foolish 
to despise a judge who has power of life and death : 
Knowest thou not that I have authority to release thee 
and I have authority to crucify thee? Pilate rightly 
uses the word which means delegated authority; he 
thinks of its source as Caesar. But Caesar’s authority 
too is delegated. Thou hadst not any authority against 
me unless it had been given thee from above. Pilate’s 
authority comes, like all real authority, from God. 
The State has the authority of God in its own sphere; 
but this is a check as well as a sanction ; for the State 
is confined within its own sphere by the very source of 
its authority; and even inside that sphere its authority 



362 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

is to execute justice, not to serve the interest of the 
rulers. If it steps outside its sphere, or uses its power 
to commit injustice, it becomes at once a usurper. 
Pilate has authority from God over the Jews and 
over Jesus as a Jew; he holds it in order to do justice 
with it; if he uses it for injustice the authority will 
evaporate. Therefore he that delivered me to thee hath 
greater sin. The sin of Caiaphas is greater because 
Pilate’s authority is from God; and it was the duty of 
Caiaphas to know and teach as well as do the will of 
God. But he, the official representative of Israel, the 
People of God, has had recourse to this heathen, who 
holds certain authority from God, in order that power 
conferred by God for the execution of justice may be 
employed for the perpetration of injustice. That the 
High Priest, of all men, should say “ Though you 
have found the Prisoner innocent, yet condemn Him 
to death to gratify our concern for our law ”, is far 
worse than it is for that heathen to execute one 
apparently deluded fanatic in order to avoid an 
insurrection. 

* 

7. Without the Praetorium. Conviction over- 
powered; the King abjured; the last sentence (12-16): 

From that time Pilate was seeking to release him; but the Jews shouted 
aloud saying “ If thou release this man, thou art not a friend of 
Caesar; everyone who maketh himself a King speaks against Caesar ”. 
Pilate therefore, having heard these words, led Jesus forth outside 
and sat upon a judgment seat in the place called Pavement but in 
Hebrew Gabbatha. And it was Preparation Day of the Passover, 
and it was about the sixth hour. And he saith to the Jews “ Behold, 
your king They shouted therefore “ Away with him, away with 
him, crucify him”. Pilate saith to them “Your king — shall I 
crucify him? ” The chief priests answered “ We have not a king 
except Caesar So then he delivered him to them to be crucified. 

Pilate is now more than ever convinced that the 
Prisoner is harmless; no one who recognised the 
Roman rule as having authority from above could be 



CHAPTER XIX 


363 

engaged in a serious rebellion; so from that time Pilate 
was seeking to release him. But the Jews are implacable. 
The word which is here translated shouted aloud means 
“ yelled ” or “ screamed but in English this seems 
to be out of harmony with the dignity of the narrative. 
(It is the same word in verse 6 and in xviii, 40.) Their 
shout this time is to terrify: If thou release this man , 
thou art not a friend of Caesar. Pilate’s office entirely 
depended on the favour of Tiberius; a report sent to 
Rome that he had released a claimant to the throne 
of Judea would be very dangerous to him; and he 
could not deny either that everyone who maketh himself 
a king speaketh against Caesar or that the Prisoner had 
admitted that in some sense he claimed to be a king 
(xviii, 36, 37). If he reported on his own behalf what 
the Prisoner had actually said to him, this would seem 
too preposterous to be even plausible. 

So Pilate, having heard these words , establishes his 
court for the first time. Everything hitherto has been 
preliminary. He takes his seat upon a chair placed 
for him on the dais of mosaic pavement, according to 
custom; Julius Caesar is said to have carried about a 
tessellated pavement to be set down wherever he 
encamped, so that from it he could deliver judgements. 
At this moment, when the formal trial before the 
Governor takes place, St. John gives a note of date 
and hour: the day was that of Preparation, or as we 
might say “ Friday of Passover week ”. Preparation 
is the name of the day before the Sabbath, that is, 
Friday; and it was about the sixth hour. Does this 
mean 6 a.m. or noon? Westcott gives sufficient reason 
for thinking that St. John is following the use of 
Asia Minor, where he was writing, in reckoning the 
hours from midnight, not (as was the Jewish custom) 
from 6 a.m. If so, the formal trial and sentence took 
place at 6 a.m. and it was possible for the Crucifixion 
itself to begin, as St. Mark tells us (xv, 25; at 9 a.m. 
(“ the third hour ”). As it was about 3 a.m. when the 



364 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

chief priests brought Jesus from the Sanhedrin to 
Pilate, there was plenty of time for the preliminary 
enquiry and Pilate’s movements in and out of his 
palace before 6 a.m. 

Pilate is yielding to the clamour of the Jews; but 
he will shew his scorn of them, and he will extract 
their profession of loyalty. He presents Jesus again 
to them: Behold , your king . Here is the man they 
present as a leader of revolt; well, perhaps He is a 
fitting king for such folk! The sight of the Lord calls 
forth a fresh outcry: Away with him y away with him , 
crucify him . Pilate presses his sarcasm home upon 
them : Tour king — shall I crucify him? Now he hears 
what he has been waiting for. The chief priests — the 
official representatives of the Jewish theocracy — 
answered “ We have not a king except Caesar 

He has humiliated these priests by forcing them to 
proclaim their loyalty to Caesar; so now he yields his 
Prisoner to them, so that the fury of the mob may 
be appeased and he himself escape the danger of a 
damaging report to Tiberius: So then he delivered him 
to them to be crucified . 

& 

(4) The Crucifixion (17-37) 

(a) The Title (17-22) 

So they received Jesus; and bearing the cross for himself he went forth 
to the place called the place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew 
Golgotha, where they crucified him and with him two others on 
this side and on that, and in the midst Jesus. And Pilate wrote a title 
also and put it on the cross; and it was written “ Jesus of Nazareth 
the King of the Jews ”, This title therefore read many of the Jews, 
because the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city; 
and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. The chiei 
priests of the Jews therefore began to say to Pilate “ Do not write 
4 The King of the Jews * but that he said 4 1 am King of the Jews ’ 
Pilate answered “ What I have written, I have written 

They received Jesus from the hands of Pilate, who 
has given the sentence, but leaves them to see to its 



CHAPTER XIX 


365 

execution. The Lord goes forth bearing the cross for 
himself. Later he would sink under its weight and 
they would make Simon of Cyrene bear it after Him 
(St. Mark xv, 21). He bore it for Himself; when we 
turn to the spiritual load which it represents, we know 
that none other can bear this; only God can bear it. 
And even for Him it seems too great. We must ever 
keep in mind the two thoughts — God the Creator of 
the universe, which came into being at His word; God 
the Redeemer staggering beneath a load that crushes 
Him as He goes from Jerusalem to Calvary: so far 
harder is it to redeem men from selfishness to love than 
to create the wheeling systems of the stars. (And Simon 
of Cyrene — the one African figure in the Gospels : 
how true it is that Africa has been compelled to carry 
the burden of a whole world’s sin !) 

And with him two others. Three crosses were set up 
that day, and one or other we must accept for our- 
selves. One is the cross of the sinless Redeemer, which 
cannot be ours. The others are the crosses of impeni- 
tence and penitence; between those two we may, 
indeed we must, make our choice. 

St. John does not tell us that the two others were 
thieves; we know, of course, that they must be con- 
demned criminals; it is at least likely that they were 
followers of Barabbas and that one of them brooded on 
the difference between the leader whom he had followed 
in a worldly insurrection and this other leader who 
also is condemned because He claims a Kingdom (St. 
Luke xxiii, 42). 

That he was condemned on that ground is made 
plain by the title which Pilate wrote and put on the 
cross. Pilate did not miss this further opportunity to 
shew his contempt for the Jews. He now treats Jesus 
as having been what alone would justify the Jews in 
demanding, or himself in pronouncing, the death- 
sentence. If he was a merely idle claimant there 
was no need to kill Him; let the chief priests suffer 



366 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

the shame of the implication that there had been an 
ineffectual rising against the hated but irresistible 
power of Rome. When they begin to protest Pilate 
cuts them short with a snub ; he will not change what 
he has written to please them. 

So the Lord was lifted up (xii, 32) and began to 
“ draw the nations nigh ”. His reign is inaugurated. 
He is mounted on His throne of shame and power, 
the crown of glory and thorns is on His brow; and 
over His head is His title — the King of Israel, the 
King in the Kingdom of God. For so it was neces- 
sary that the Kingdom should be founded, since it 
must control the hearts and wills of men. “ The Son 
of Man must suffer.” He reigns from the Tree. 

* 

{b) The Distribution of Garments (23, 24) 

The soldiers therefore, when they crucified Jesus, took his garments 
and made four parts, to each soldier a part — and his coat. But 
the coat was seamless, woven from the top throughout. They said 
therefore to one another “ Let us not tear it but cast lots for it, whose 
it shall be that the scripture might be fulfilled “ They parted my 
garments among themselves and upon my vesture they cast lots 
The soldiers therefore did these things. 

It was a recognised custom that the soldiers who 
carried out an execution should take the clothes of 
the condemned prisoner as perquisites. As usual, a 
quaternion was charged with the duty of execution, 
so they make four piles of the other garments, but 
decide to cast lots for the seamless coat. That the coat 
is such is an illustration of the simplicity of the Lord’s 
attire; His “ coat ” was a one-piece garment. But 
to the Evangelist it probably recalled the seamless 
coat of the High Priest, and was felt to be appropriate 
to Him who offered Himself as the one perfect sacrifice 
and atonement. Certainly he sees in the behaviour of 
the soldiers a fulfilment of Psalm xxii, 1 8, so that even 



CHAPTER XIX 367 

the conduct of the soldiers is part of the divine purpose 
which is being at once revealed and accomplished. 

(c) Three Words of the Crucified (25-30) 

25-27. And there were standing by the Cross of Jesus his mother and 
the sister of his mother, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magda- 
lene. Jesus therefore seeing his mother and the disciple standing by 
whom he loved, saith to his mother “ Woman; behold, thy son! ” 
Then saith he to the disciple “ Behold, thy mother 5 \ And from 
that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 

There were four women by the Cross — Mary the 
Mother of the Lord and her sister, Salome, the mother 
of the Beloved Disciple; also Mary the wife of Clopas 
(brother, according to Hegesippus, of St. Joseph) and 
Mary Magdalene; and among them was the Beloved 
Disciple, the son of Salome, the nephew of the Blessed 
Virgin and cousin of the Lord. 

As the Lord looks down from the Cross He sees 
this group of intimately dear friends. Especially He 
sees His mother and knows how truly the prophecy or 
Simeon is finding fulfilment — “a sword shall pierce 
through thine own soul ” (<SV. Luke ii, 3 5). Also He 
knows that His own deepest agony is approaching — 
the agony which, as it passes away to be succeeded by 
the calm of achievement and trust, will find expression 
in the words of the Psalmist “ My God, my God, why 
didst thou forsake me? ” (St. Mark xv, 34). He would 
not have His mother witness that agony. He com- 
mends her to the care of her own nephew who is His 
closest friend. And that disciple at once leads her 
away from the scene of suffering. While he is absent 
the period of darkness comes and passes; he returns 
to hear the last words and to see the wondrous end. 

* 

28, 29. After this Jesus knowing that all things are now finished, that 
die scripture might be accomplished, saith “ I thirst ”. A vessel 

2b 



3 68 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

was set there full of vinegar; so they filled a sponge with the vinegar 
and, putting it on a javelin, lifted it to his mouth. When therefore 
he received the vinegar Jesus said “ It is finished ” and having bowed 
his head he gave up his spirit. 

After this ; the phrase does not mean that the later 
episode followed the earlier immediately, but only that 
it was later. In fact it was, no doubt, after the return 
of the Beloved Disciple, and therefore at least three 
hours later than the previous Word. The Lord knows 
that all things are now finished, as He will Himself 
proclaim very shortly (30). But He cannot make that 
proclamation till His parched throat is cooled and 
moistened. So He says “ I thirst ”, and in this again 
the Evangelist sees a fulfilment — indeed he calls it 
an accomplishment — of scripture, for the Psalmist 
had written “ When I was thirsty they gave me vinegar 
to drink ” (Psalm lxix, 21): but this reference is in the 
mind of the Evangelist rather than of the Lord Himself. 

This Word I thirst is the only one of the seven which 
refers to the physical pain, and this is mentioned only 
to prepare for the great cry that follows. How im- 
pressive that though the pain of body was so great 
there was only this incidental allusion to itl Nor can 
we doubt that the very words 1 thirst carried with them 
for the Lord a recollection of the Cup that He had once 
prayed might pass from Him. He has accepted it with 
calm resolve; the cup which My Father has given me, am 
I not to drink itl (xviii, 1 1). Now He is eager to drink 
it to the dregs that all may be finished — I thirst. 

Some kindly soldiers act in response; the vinegar 
or sour wine was there for the soldiers who had to 
keep watch. One or more of them filled a sponge and, 
putting it on a javelin , lifted it to his mouth. The true 
reading here is preserved in an ordinarily unimportant 
manuscript (the eleventh -century cursive, 476); if 
the sponge were attached to “ hyssop ”, 5 some rod or 

1 Hyssop is a plant which does not supply a strong stem, but does supply 
a bunch of leaves suitable for use as a “ sprinkler ” : cf. Exodus xii, zz+ 



CHAPTER XIX 


369 

pole would still be needed to lift it. But the corruption 
which led to this reading is easily understood, and we 
need not hesitate to follow the one manuscript which 
tells us that a javelin was used (see Bernard ad loc.). 

When therefore he had received the vinegar — as 
soon as the parching thirst of His throat was allayed — 
Jesus said “ It is finished ”. 

He knew that all things were now finished and He 
proclaims it to the world. This word was spoken “ with 
a loud voice” (St. Mark xv, 37; St. Matthew xxvii, 
50; St. Luke xxiii, 46). Each of the three Synoptists 
records that mighty cry; only St. John tells us what 
word was uttered. It is finished. All that prophets 
had foretold; all that the Father had sent Him to 
do (xvii, 4) ; the power of sin broken ; the world over- 
come (xvi, 33); “ It is finished ”. 

And having bowed his head> he gave up his spirit. 
So St. John refers to the words whispered with bowed 
head: “ Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit ” 
(St. Luke xxiii, 46). His death was a voluntary act; 
He had authority to lay down his life (x, 1 8), and He 
exercises that authority. His final act is to “ give 
up ” — of course to the Father — that spirit which 
was always in the bosom of the Father (i, 1 8). He goes 
His way to the Father (xvi, xo). 

* 

(d) The Spear-thrust (31-37) 

The Jews therefore, since it was Preparation, that the bodies might 
not remain up on the cross on the sabbath, for the day of that sabbath 
was a great day, asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and 
that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came 
and brake the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified 
with him. But having come to Jesus, when they saw that he was 
already dead, they did not break his legs, but one of the soldiers with 
a spear pierced his side and forthwith came there out blood and 
water. And he who hath seen hath borne witness, and true is his 
witness and he knoweth that he saith things that are true that ye also 



370 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

may believe. For these things came to pass that the scripture might 
be fulfilled “ A bone of him shall not be broken and again another 
scripture saith “ They shall look on him whom they pierced ”. 

The law forbids that criminals should remain on 
the cross after sunset (Deuteronomy xxi, 23); and this 
was specially urgent if at that sunset the Sabbath began 
so that another twenty-four hours must elapse before 
they could be buried; if the Sabbath were the great 
day of a feast the urgency was all the greater. But 
the Roman custom, while burial on the same day was 
not forbidden, was to leave the corpse on the cross as 
a deterrent to others. So Pilate’s leave was necessary. 
He had not wanted to condemn Jesus to death; nor 
can he want trouble when the pilgrims flock into the 
city for the feast; so his consent is readily given. The 
customary way of ending the life of crucified criminals 
was the cruel one of breaking their legs with a heavy 
mallet, when the shock would cause the death which 
exhaustion had brought near. The soldiers break 
the legs of the other two, whom we must therefore 
suppose to be still alive at the time; but they find 
Jesus already dead. One of them, perhaps to make 
doubly sure, thrusts a spear into His side. And forth- 
with came there out blood and water. 

The Evangelist attaches great importance to this 
strange event. He seems to regard it as in some way 
a sign that the Lord, though truly dead, is yet also 
alive. Probably also he thinks of the blood as the 
Blood of the New Covenant, shed upon the Cross but 
also given and received in the Eucharist, and of the 
water as the symbol of spiritual life (iv, 14; vii, 37-39) 
and the cleansing element of Baptism; so that from 
the sacrifice of the Cross flows the grace of the two great 
sacraments. 

The Evangelist is careful to insist that his record 
rests on the testimony of an eyewitness — he who hath 
seen hath borne witness ; that this testimony is reliable — 
and true is his witness ; and that the eyewitness him- 



CHAPTER XIX 


37i 

self, the Beloved Disciple (who must therefore have 
been still alive when the Elder wrote the Gospel) 
knoweth that he saith things that are true’, that ye also — 
like that apostle — may believe. 

Then the Evangelist adds his own tracing in these 
events of the fulfilment of scripture, and consequent 
new understanding of the events themselves. As the 
seamless coat suggested the High Priest, so the 
unbroken bones suggest the Paschal Lamb ( Exodus xii, 
46); He is Himself both Priest and Victim. The 
other reference carries us forward; for the words of 
Zechariah (x, 12) “they shall look unto Him whom 
they have pierced ”, speak of a repentance of Jerusalem 
for the killing of that “ good shepherd whom her 
people have rejected and slain ”. 1 Thus the present 
episode points to the time when the Lord on His Cross 
shall indeed draw all men unto Him, even those who 
nailed Him there — even us who crucify Him afresh. 

(5) The Burial (38-42) 

And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, 
but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take 
away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came there- 
fore and took his body. And there came also Nicodemus, who came 
to him by night at the first, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, 
about a hundred pounds. So they took the body of Jesus and wound 
it in linen clothes with the spices, as is the custom for the Jews to 
bury. And there was, in the place where he was crucified, a garden, 
and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid. 
There, therefore, because of the Jews’ Preparation, because the 
tomb was near, they laid Jesus. 

Joseph of Arimathea was a timid disciple, like most 
of us. But he could not bear that the body of the Lord 
should be dishonoured. As with many timid natures, 
a strong and deep sentiment prevailed where the call 
of truth was insufficient. He “ plucked up his courage ” 

1 George Adam Smith, The Book qf the Twelve Prophets , p. 482. 



372 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

(St. Mark xv, 43) and begged Pilate for the charge of 
the body. His request was granted, and he superin- 
tended the taking down of the body from the Cross 
(St. Mark xv, 46). His courage gave courage to another 
similarly placed, so that the last rites were rendered by 
two men who had never dared to avow themselves dis- 
ciples. Yet perhaps it was for that very reason that 
they were able now to shew the care and reverence 
for which all' Christians thank them. It would seem 
that this burial was regarded as provisional, as it was 
certainly hurried. It was the impending Sabbath 
which caused the haste. So that Sabbath law which 
was the first occasion of a conspiracy to kill the Lord 
(v. 1 8) determined the manner of His burial. 

Had the old system and the power of darkness 
triumphed? 



ACT V 


THE DAWN 




CHAPTER XX 


The conflict of Light with Darkness is finished. For a 
moment Darkness seemed to prevail : “ this is your 
hour and the power of darkness ” (St. Luke xxii, 53). 
But the fight was fought out and the victory won : It 
is finished (xix, 30). The date of the triumph of love 
is Good Friday, not Easter Day. Yet if the story had 
ended there, the victory would have been barren. 
What remains is not to win it, but to gather in its 
fruits. Consequently St. John does not present the 
Resurrection as a mighty act by which the hosts of 
evil are routed, but rather as the quiet rising of the 
sun which has already vanquished night. The atmo- 
sphere of the story has all the sweet freshness of dawn 
on a spring day. Fra Angelico, in his delicious fresco 
of the appearance of the Lord to Mary Magdalene, 
has perfectly caught its tone and feeling. 

The story is told, and the Appearances selected, so 
as to illustrate, as Westcott says, “ the passage from 
sight to faith ”. The Beloved Disciple believes when 
he sees the grave-clothes ; Mary Magdalene when she 
hears a well-known voice pronounce her name; the 
ten apostles when they see the Lord’s wounds; St. 
Thomas when he sees those same wounds and is invited 
to handle them. But better than all of these is a faith 
that needs no such support from experiences of the 
senses (29). All the Appearances, as we shall see, 
give emphasis to what had been said : “ It is expedient 
for you that I go away. For if I go not away , the Comforter 
will not come to you, but if I depart I will send him to 
you (xvi, 7). Mary is to cling to the ascended Lord, 
not to the Master who addresses her with physical 
speech; the Apostles are to receive Christ’s own life- 
breath or spirit to be their spirit and the breath of 

375 



376 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

their lives; Thomas, who reaches the first confession 
of full Christian faith, is pointed to an apprehension of 
divine truth which is independent of all external 
evidence. The Lord is calling His followers to enter 
on the transition “ from sight to faith” — from out- 
ward companionship to inward communion, from the 
discipleship which rests on a bodily Presence to one 
which is perfected in spiritual union — “ I in them , 
and thou in me ” (xvii, 23 ; cf. xiv, 20). 

(1) The Empty Tomb 

But on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene cometh early, while 
it was still dark, to the tomb, and seeth the stone taken away out of 
the tomb. So she runneth and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the 
other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith to them “ They took the 
Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they put him 
So Peter set out and the other disciple; and they were coming to 
the tomb; and they began to run, the two of them together; and the 
other disciple ran on in front, quicker than Peter, and came first to 
the tomb and, peeping in, seeth lying there the linen clothes, yet he 
did not go in. So Simon Peter cometh also, following him, and 
went into the tomb; and he taketh note of the linen clothes lying, 
and the napkin, which was on his head, not lying with the linen 
clothes but apart, wrapped into one place. So then the other 
disciple also went in — he who came first to the tomb — - and saw 
and believed. For not yet did they know the scripture, that he 
must rise from the dead. So the disciples went away again to their 
own homes. 

It is most manifestly the record of a personal 
memory. Nothing else can account for the little details, 
so vivid, so little like the kind of thing that comes 
from invention or imagination. 

On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene cometh 
early. She who is supremely the forgiven sinner, 
whose heart is utterly given to her Saviour, is the first 
to go, when the Sabbath is over, to be near by that 
Body of which she has twice already anointed the feet, 
and to which she would now aid in giving the last 



CHAPTER XX 377 

care of love (St. Luke vii, 36-50; St. John xii, 1-8; 
St. Mark xvi, 1). Perhaps she came with the other 
devoted women; but if so St. John’s narrative suggests 
that she was before them. She comes early — that is 
to say, soon after 3 a.m. (see xviii, 28) — while it was 
still dark. But the dawn is already breaking, and she 
can see that something has happened ; the mouth of 
the tomb, which had been closed by a great stone, is 
open; she seeth the stone taken away out of the tomb. She 
does not look further; she jumps to two conclusions — 
first that the Body of the Lord is no longer in the tomb, 
and secondly that this is because His enemies have 
stolen it. At once she turns and runneth and cometh to 
Simon Peter , and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved y 
and saith to them “ They took the Lord out of the tomb 
and we do not know where they put him ”. She runs 
first to Peter, who, in spite of his denials, is still thought 
of as the leader, and to that other disciple who was 
known as the most intimate; the Greek phrasing 
makes it clear that they were not together and she 
had to run on a separate errand to each. Her message 
is not what she had seen, but the inference she had 
drawn; in her dismay she is so sure that she states it 
as a definite fact : they took — in English it would 
be they came and took the Lord out of the tomb and we do 
not know where they put him. This loving woman, who 
had anointed and kissed the feet of the Lord, identifies 
Him with His Body. To remove that is to remove 
Him; and she does not know how to shew Him 
reverence. 

There follows a very vivid description of the two 
disciples hurrying to the tomb. They set forth at 
once; as they approach the tomb they begin to 
run; the younger, John, gains on his comrade and 
reaches the tomb first. So Peter set out , and the other 
disciple ; and they were coming to the tomb ; and they 
began to run y the two of them together; and the other 
disciple ran on in front quicker than Peter , and came first 



378 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

to the tomb , and, peeping in, seeth lying there the linen 
clothes; yet he did not go in. The Beloved Disciple is 
the first to reach the tomb; but he can at first do no 
more than peep in — for this was at the date of the 
Gospel’s writing the common meaning of the Greek 
word here used; a sacred awe of the Lord’s burial- 
place holds him outside. But he sees what later he 
will recognise as most significant — lying there the linen 
clothes. The eager and impulsive Simon Peter is not 
content to stand outside. So Simon Peter cometh also, 
following him , and went into the tomb. He not only 
seeth the linen clothes, but carefully observes them: 
he taketh note of the linen clothes lying, and the napkin, 
which was on his head, not lying with the linen clothes, 
but apart , wrapped into one place. The Body of the 
Lord had, as it would seem, passed through the 
winding-sheets that were about it, so that these lay 
there, the upper layer having fallen upon the lower; 
more significant still, the napkin which was on his head 
had similarly fallen in upon itself and lay there, apart — 
separated by the brief space where the neck had been — 
wrapped or heaped into one place. It is extraordinarily 
vivid, and such as no invention would devise, no 
freak of imagination conjure up. Peter does not see 
the significance. “ Peter . . . seeth the linen clothes 
by themselves; and went away to his home wondering 
at that which was come to pass ” {St. Luke xxiv, 1 2). 

Then the Beloved Disciple, taking courage from 
Peter, goes into the tomb; he saw what Peter had 
seen; but he grasps its meaning. So then the other 
disciple also went in — he who came first to the tomb — 
and saw and believed. Perhaps he who was in heart 
nearest to the Lord had some instinct of understand- 
ing which enabled him to interpret what he saw and 
grasp the truth; anyhow, the “disciple whom Jesus 
loved. ” was the first to believe in His resurrection. 

The Evangelist adds a note to explain how it was 
that the apostles needed to reach that belief by gradual 



CHAPTER XX 


379 

stages. For not yet did they know the scripture , that he 
must rise from the dead . They had not learnt to apply 
to their Lord, as Peter would a few weeks later, the 
great declaration of the Psalmist: “ Thou wilt not 
leave my soul to Sheol; neither wilt thou suffer thy 
holy one to see corruption ” {Psalm xvi, 1 1 ; Acts ii, 
27). But for the disciple whose heart was uplifted 
by faith there was no more to see or to do at the tomb 
than for the disciple whose heart was full of bewilder- 
ment. So the disciples went away again to their own 
homes . 

* 

(2) The Appearance to Mary Magdalene 

But there was one who could not leave the tomb. 
Mary Magdalene, having taken her despairing message 
to Peter and John, had returned to the tomb, and 
lingered there. Even though the Lord had been taken 
away, it was here that He had been laid; this is the 
place of latest association with him. 

xi-18. But Mary stood by the tomb without, weeping. So as she 
wept, she peeped into the tomb; and she noticeth two angels in 
white sitting one by the head and one by the feet where had lain 
the body of Jesus. And they say to her “Woman, why art thou 
weeping? ” She saith to them “ They took my Lord and I do not 
know where they put him Having said this she turned back- 
wards and noticeth Jesus standing, and did not know that it was 
Jesus. Jesus saith to her “ Woman, why art thou weeping? For 
whom art thou looking? ” She, thinking that it is the gardener, 
saith to him, “ Sir, if it was thou that carried him away, tell me 
where thou didst put him and I will take him Jesus saith to her 
“ Mary She turned and saith to him in Hebrew “ Rabboni ” 
(which means Master). Jesus saith to her “ Cling not to me, for 
not yet am I gone up to the Father. But go to my brethren and 
say to them — I go up to my Father and your Father, and my God 
and your God.” Mary Magdalene cometh announcing to the 
disciples “ I have seen the Lord ” and that he said these things 
to her. 

Mary remains at the tomb in tears ; so she had wept 
at the tomb of her brother, Lazarus (xi, 31). Gradually 



380 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

her sorrow becomes tinged with wonder what it was 
that the two apostles had seen when they went into 
the tomb; so she too looks in, peeping as John had 
peeped at first. What catches her attention is not the 
linen clothes, but two angels in white sitting one by the 
head and one by the feet where had lain the body of Jesus. 
The place of His death was between two thieves; 
“ He was numbered with the transgressors ” ( Isaiah 
liii, 12; St. Luke xxii, 37). The place of His burial 
was between two angels; for God had set Him forth 
in His blood to be a mercy-seat — the place where 
God’s forgiveness meets man’s sin {Romans iii, 25). 

We do ill to ask whether there was one angel {St. 
Mark xvi, 16) or two {St. Luke xxiv, 4). It is not to 
be presumed that angels are physical objects reflecting 
rays of light upon the retina of the eye. When men 
“ see ” or “ hear ” angels, it is rather to be supposed 
that an intense interior awareness of a divine message 
leads to the projection of an image which is then 
experienced as an occasion of something seen and heard. 
That divine messengers were sent and divine messages 
received we need not doubt; that they took physical 
form so that all who “ saw ” anything must “ see ” the 
same thing we need not suppose. Here they are the 
manifestation to Mary that God was intimately active 
in this strange matter of the empty tomb, and was 
active also to comfort the sorrow of her heart. The 
divine consolation approaches her tenderly; the 
angels ask only why she is weeping. Her answer is to 
repeat the message of dismay which she had brought 
to the two disciples; but she repeats it with two little 
variations; now it is not “ the Lord ” but “ my Lord ” 
— not “ we do not know ” but “ I do not know ”, 
For when she first came and found the stone removed 
(1) she came in company with the other women or had 
soon been joined by them (St. Mark xvi, x). But now 
she is alone : They took my Lord and 1 do not know 
where they put him. 



CHAPTER XX 381 

As she says this, the sorrow comes upon her again 
in its first fulness, and she turns away from the tomb 
and its angels. She notices someone standing there; 
but she does not recognise Him; probably she does 
not look up at Him; no doubt it is someone who 
has his own business there. She turned backward and 
noticeth Jesus standing , and did not know that it was 
Jesus. He too begins, as the angels had begun, by 
asking the cause of her grief — the first step towards 
ordinary sympathy: Woman , why art thou weeping? 
But He knows the real answer, so He adds words 
which shew His understanding. For whom art thou 
looking? She still does not look up or straight towards 
Him; speaking with downcast face and looking away 
to hide her tears, supposing that He is the gardener 
she says, Sir , if it was thou that carried him away , tell 
me where thou didst put him and I will take him. 
The word for “ carried away ” has a suggestion of 
stealing (xii, 6), but here contains no more than a sad 
complaint, not a charge. Mary does not answer the 
question, nor indicate in any way of whom she speaks. 
That, in her absorption in her grief, seems to her 
manifest. Her one desire is to find the Lord’s Body 
and take it where friends will pay to it the last tribute 
of love and honour. 

Mary : the answer is her own name, spoken ' by 
a voice she knew. The earlier questions, though 
spoken by that voice, could not recall the old associa- 
tion. Her name, so spoken, reaches her heart. She 
turns to face the Speaker. Rabboni: the cry of devo- 
tion accompanies a movement as she hastens to clasp 
those feet which once she had bathed with tears. So 
she draws the first declaration of the Risen Christ. 
Cling not to me , for not yet am I gone up to the Father. 
The weakness to which such love as Mary’s is liable 
is that it clings too closely to the physical form, of 
which the whole purpose is to express and serve the 
spiritual self. To her therefore this warning is 



382 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

appropriately given, but its meaning is for all. She 
must learn to love and trust and serve, even though 
she can no longer caress His feet or hear His voice 
pronounce her name. Not to the Lord as He taber- 
nacled in the flesh, subject to all limitations of the 
body, is she to cling ; but to the Lord in His perfect 
union with the Father. 

So He taught her the meaning of that last Appear- 
ance, the final withdrawal of His physical presence, 
which we call the Ascension. It was separation in one 
sense, for it closed the period of the first form of inter- 
course. But in a profounder sense it was the inaugura- 
tion of a fuller union. In the days of His earthly 
ministry, only those could speak to Him who came 
where He was. If He was in Galilee, men could not 
find Him in Jerusalem; if He was in Jerusalem, men 
could not find Him in Galilee. But His Ascension 
means that He is perfectly united with God; we are 
with Him wherever we are present to God ; and that 
is everywhere and always. Because He is “ in Heaven ” 
He is everywhere on earth; because He is ascended, 
He is here now. Our devotion is not to hold us by 
the empty tomb; it must lift up our hearts to heaven 
so that we too “ in heart and mind thither ascend and 
with Him continually dwell ” ; it must also send us 
forth into the world to do His will; and these are not 
two things, but one. 

Not yet am I gone up to the Father. To use the word 
“ ascended ” is to introduce a specialised term where 
a quite general one is found in the Greek. He had 
spoken of Himself as coming down out of heaven (vi, 3 8), 
and had balanced this by speaking of His going up 
where he was before (vi, 62). He has repeatedly spoken 
of “ going to the Father All this is here in mind. 
The essential moment of His going to the Father is 
the consummation of Love upon the Cross: It is 
finished. But He still subjects Himself to some measure 
of physical limitation that He may appear in His Risen 



CHAPTER XX 383 

Body to the disciples and send them out to gather the 
fruits of His triumph. Not yet therefore is complete 
that “ going ” or “ going up ” to the Father, which 
is at once the climax of His earthly life, and the 
source of His disciples’ power to do wonders in His 
Name (xiv, 1 2). Alike for fulness of our love to Him, 
and for fulness of His power working in us, we are 
to cling, not to the Lord known after the flesh (II 
Corinthians v, 16) but to the Lord enthroned at the 
right hand of the Father and active within us by the 
energy of His Holy Spirit. 

Mary is to carry to the disciples the news of the 
imminent consummation; the message is expressed 
in language which emphasises communion rather than 
separation. Go to my brethren — a new title for the 
disciples due to the prominence of the thought that the 
Father is both His Father and ours; it is characteristic 
of the days after the Resurrection; see St. Matthew 
xxviii, xo, where also it is associated with direction 
to await the Ascension — and say to them — I go up 
to my Father and your Father , and my God and your 
God. 

The command is at once obeyed. This forgiven 
sinner becomes the messenger of Christ to the Apostles 
themselves, declaring the Resurrection of her Lord and 
theirs. Mary Magdalene cometh announcing to the 
disciples “ I have seen the Lord ” and that he said these 
things to her. 

* 

First Appearance to the Discipi.es 

10-23. When therefore it was evening on that day, the first day of the 
week, and the doors having been shut where the disciples were on 
account of their fear of the jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, 
and saith to them “ Peace to you ”. And having said this he shewed 
both his hands and his side to them. - Filled with joy therefore were 
the disciples on seeing the Lord. So Jesus said to them again “ Peace 
to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you.” And having 
said this he breathed upon them and saith to them “ Receive holy 



3 84 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

spirit (or breath). If of any ye forgive the sins, they are forgiven 

them; if of any ye hold them fast, they are held.” 

When therefore it was evening on that day , — late in 
the evening, for the two disciples who had walked to 
Emmaus were returned (St. Luke xxiv, 29, 33-36) — 
and the doors having been shut where the disciples were 
on account of their fear of the Jews, for no doubt the 
story of the empty tomb was known and the disciples 
might well be charged with stealing the Body — came 
Jesus and stood in the midst . We need not say that 
He came through the closed doors; the Evangelist 
does not say that; the word came implies no more 
than that at one time He was not there and at a later 
time He was. But the story does imply that the 
Risen Body was free from some of its former limitations. 
He stood there among them, and spoke the familiar 
greeting Peace to you. It was a common salutation. 
But the disciples would recall the words: Peace I 
leave to you , the peace that is mine I give to you. Not as 
the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be 
troubled or dismayed (xiv, 27). To confirm their con- 
viction that it is He Himself, having said this he shewed 
both his hands and his side to them. It was proof of 
identity; this, however transmuted, was the Body 
which had hung on the Cross and was laid in the tomb. 
But the scars are more than this ; they are the evidence 
not only that what they see is the Body of Jesus, but 
what is the quality for ever of the Body of Him whom 
they know with ever-deeper understanding as the 
Christ: “ the Son of Man must suffer 

The wounds of Christ are His credentials to the 
suffering race of men. Shortly after the end of the 
Great War, when its memories and its pains were fresh 
in mind, a volume was published under the title Jesus 
of the Scars, and Other Poems by Edward Shillito. 
The poem from which the title was taken stands first 
in the book and is headed by the text, “ He showed 
them His hands and His side ” : 



3§5 


CHAPTER XX 

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now; 

Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars; 

We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow. 

We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars. 

The heavens frighten us ; they are too calm; 

In all the universe we have no place. 

Our wounds are hurting us ; where is the balm? 

Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace. 

If, when the doors are shut. Thou drawest near. 

Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine; 

We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear, 

Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign. 

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak; 

They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne; 

But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, 

And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone. 

Only a God in whose perfect Being pain has its 
place can win and hold our worship ; for otherwise 
the creature would in fortitude surpass the Creator. 

Filled with joy therefore were the disciples on seeing 
the Lord . His promise was fulfilled : I shall see you 
again y and your joy no man taketh from you (xvi, 22). We 
imagine a few moments of silent rapture at this proof 
that their Lord is alive and that their fellowship with 
Him is renewed. Then He repeats His greeting and 
goes on to give the apostolic commission and at the 
same time to suggest the new form which must now be 
taken by the fellowship of the disciples with Himself: 
Peace to you . As the Father hath sent me^ I also send 
you . Still the position of Mediator is asserted; the 
Father : the Son : : the Son : the Apostles. We are 
called to share His apostolic ministry; but no other 
among men, however inspired, becomes the equal 
of Christ; for His mission is from the Father without 
intermediary, and ours is from the Father through 
Him. But as there is need at times to check our sense 
of the dignity of our status, so it is impossible to 



386 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

exaggerate the greatness of our calling. It is to con- 
tinue in the world that divine Mission of which the 
inauguration was the sending of the Son by the Father 
to be the Redeemer of the world. We are members of 
the Body of Christ, through whom He would accom- 
plish His purpose. All accounts of the charge given 
to the disciples by the Risen Lord agree in its content; 
they were to go forth to be His witnesses (St. Luke 
xxiv, 47, 48; Acts i, 8), to proclaim the Gospel (St. 
Mark xvi, 1 5), to make disciples of all the nations (St. 
Matthew xxviii, 19), to continue the Mission of the 
Incarnation (St. John xx, 21). For this purpose they 
could rely on His presence (St. Matthew xxviii, 20) — 
the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts i, 8 ; St. Luke xxiv, 
49; St. John xx, 2 1). 

This is the primary purpose for which the Spirit is 
given : that we may bear witness to Christ. We must 
not expect the gift while we ignore the purpose. A 
Church which ceases to be missionary will not be, and 
cannot rightly expect to be, “ spiritual ”. 

And having said this he breathed upon them and 
saith to them “ Receive holy spirit (or breath). If of any 
ye forgive the sins, they are forgiven them; if of any ye 
hold them fast, they are held.” The fellowship of the old 
days has for a moment been renewed, but only that 
it may give place to the new and still closer fellowship 
which is to last for ever. He imparts to them His 
own life-breath; the outward sign, helped by the 
play on words, suggests that henceforth His own 
spiritual energy will be within them. Receive holy 
spirit. The gift is freely offered, but it can be refused ; 
there is a definite act of reception. The Lord now 
fulfils the promise of the Baptist concerning Him 
(i, 33); He baptises His disciples, not in water which 
washes away stains, but in holy spirit — the energy of 
a holy life in obedience to God. 

Receive holy spirit — not “ the Holy Spirit What 
is bestowed is not the Divine Person Himself but the 



CHAPTER XX 


387 

power and energy of which He is the source. Earlier 
it had been said not yet was there spirit , because Jesus 
was not yet glorified (vii, 39). But now that glorifica- 
tion is complete, and it is possible for the new divine 
energy, which operates through man’s response to the 
manifested love of God, to begin its activity. Of this 
the outstanding manifestation will be the continuance 
of that divine offer of life which always (incidentally) 
involves judgement (iii, 17—19). If of any ye forgive 
the sins , they are forgiven them; and if of any ye hold 
them fast , they are held. The body of disciples, being 
the Body of Christ, and being filled with that holy 
spirit which Christ has breathed into them, carries 
forward His work of pronouncing God’s forgiveness 
of sin. The authority here bestowed is given to the 
body, not, or at least not necessarily or certainly, to 
any one member of that body; and it is given in con- 
nexion with the bestowal of holy spirit — the energy 
and power of God the Holy Spirit in the fellowship 
and in the heart. The principle is clear. To the 
Church as the fellowship of the Spirit is given the 
authority of Christ Himself as Pardoner and Judge. 
But only so far as the Church in and through its 
members fulfils the condition — Receive holy spirit — 
can it discharge this function. 

In practice the Church must do this through 
appropriate organs, and the parallel charge to St. 
Peter included in the Matthaean account of his con- 
fession at Caesarea Philippi (St. Matthew xvi, 19) 
supports the practice of the Church in translating this 
commission from the plural to the singular in the 
Ordination of Priests. But 

the fundamental Christian Ministry is the Ministry of Christ. 
There is no Christian Priesthood or Ministry apart from 
His. His priestly and ministerial function is to reconcile the 
world to God in and through himself, by His Incarnation and 
by His ‘ one sacrifice once offered delivering men from the 
power of sin and death. 



388 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

The Church as the Body of Christ, sharing His life, has a 
ministerial function derived from that of Christ. In this 
function every member has his place and share according to 
his different capabilities and calling. The work of the Church 
is to bring all the various activities and relationships of men 
under the control of the Holy Spirit, and in this work each 
member has his part. The particular function of the official 
Ministry can only be rightly understood as seen against the 
background of this universal ministry . 1 

Every Christian has a responsibility for drawing 
others to Christ, and for declaring, if occasion so 
require, the forgiveness which the divine love offers to 
all who come in penitence. It is evidently appropriate 
that this, like other functions, should be representa- 
tively exercised by those appointed for the purpose; 
none the less the minister so appointed, when he 
pronounces absolution, does it, not in the name of his 
fellow-Christians, but in the name of Christ; for it is 
only in His name and by His commission that it can 
be pronounced at all. 

If the gift of holy spirit has been fully and perfectly 
“ received ”, the individual Christian so endowed 
would have perfect discernment and his judgement in 
forgiving sins or “ retaining ” them would be that 
of God Himself. But only the Lord Himself was able 
to receive the gift of the Spirit in that fulness. The 
individual priest, who has been bidden at his Ordina- 
tion to receive that gift, must do his best according 
to the measure in which he has in fact received it. 
The Church, for its temporal purposes, must act as 
though the judgement of the priest were that of God, 
and must warn a sinner who has been judged impeni- 
tent and to whom absolution has been refused, not to 
share in the Holy Communion. But the Church does 
not suppose that its ministers are infallible, or declare 
that one who is excluded from the Christian fellowship 
on earth is certainly excluded from the fellowship of 

1 Doctrine in the Church of England (The Report of the Archbishops* 
Commission on Doctrine), p* 1 14, 



CHAPTER XX 


389 

Christ in Heaven. And the priest, though he rightly 
warns those who approach him that they need to 
“ receive ” the benefit of absolution, and that this is 
only possible so far as their penitence is real, will not 
so far trust his own “ reception ” of the gift of the 
Spirit as to refuse to pronounce absolution unless the 
lack of penitence is very evident. For the ministry 
which he has received is not essentially a ministry of 
judgement; it is essentially a ministry of reconciliation, 
and of judgement only incidentally, to those who 
refuse to be reconciled. 

* 

The Appearance to Thomas 

24-29. But Thomas, one of the Twelve, called Didymus, was not 
with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples began to say to 
him u We have seen the Lord But he said to them, “ Unless I 
see in his hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the print 
of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I shall in nowise believe 
And after eight days again his disciples were within and Thomas 
with them. Jesus cometh, the doors having been shut, and stood in 
the midst and said “ Peace to you Then he saith to Thomas 
“ Bring hither thy finger and see my hands; and bring thy hand and 
put it into my side, and do not become unbelieving but believing 
Thomas answered and said to him “ My Lord and my God ”. Jesus 
saith to him u Is it because thou hast seen me that thou hast believed ? 
Blessed are they who saw not and have believed.” 

So doubting Thomas receives the “ sign ” which 
was refused to enquiring Pharisees — e.g. St. Mark 
viii, ii y 12. Why are they differently treated? Of 
course it is because the Pharisees did not want to be- 
lieve, and if they had been convinced by a “ sign from 
heaven” they would have been unwilling adherents, 
not truly disciples at all To give them the sign 
would be to yield to the temptation typified by the 
throwing of Himself down from the pinnacle of the 
Temple* Their demand proceeded from ill-will; it 
was necessary first to cure that ill-will Nothing 
can be more remote from discipleship than a man 



390 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

who should suppose the Gospel to be true while wish- 
ing that it were not. 

The doubt of Thomas, on the other hand, proceeded 
from loyalty and good-will. He was utterly devoted. 
It was he who had said let us also go that we may die 
with him (xi, 1 6). But he was rather literal-minded; 
it was he who said We know not whither thou goest: 
how know we the way? (xiv, 5). He could not dare to 
believe the tremendous news; and, after all, the other 
disciples were equally unable to believe at first (St. 
Luke xxiv, 1 1). He was not present when on the 
evening of the first Easter Day the Lord appeared 
to the ten apostles and, perhaps, to other disciples 
^assembled with them; and when they tell him, he still 
refuses to believe. It is natural to the prosaic tem- 
perament to demand certainty as a condition of self- 
commital. His negative is very strong : unless / see in 
his hands the -print of the nails and put my finger into the 
print of the nails, and put my hand into his side , I shall in 
nowise believe — or — there is no chance of my believing. 
Such vigour of disbelief plainly represents a strong 
urge to believe, held down by common sense and its 
habitual dread of disillusionment. 

The Lord waits till all the associations of the earlier 
scene can again be present. Again it is the first day 
of the week — the resurrection-day. Again the dis- 
ciples are assembled behind closed doors. Again the 
Lord suddenly stands in the midst with His salutation 
Peace to you. Then at once He turns to Thomas and 
shews His knowledge of His disciple’s heart. Thomas 
is offered precisely the test which he had demanded; 
but he does not avail himself of it. He does not touch 
the marks of the wounds; but at once he leaps to the 
first confession of true Christian faith: My Lord and 
my God. 

The disciples could not maintain themselves at 
that level. The full doctrine of the Deity of Jesus is 
not apparent in the speeches recorded in Acts. But 



CHAPTER XX 


39i 

St. Stephen grasped this truth devotionally, when he 
commended his spirit to the Lord Jesus as to God 
( Acts vii, 59); and there was, apparently, no sense that 
St. Paul was departing from the original Gospel as he 
developed his Christology. The Church of Jerusalem 
was perplexed and troubled about him in many ways, 
but not in this. Gradually we watch the Church mov- 
ing towards a well-grounded assurance of that truth 
which St. Thomas reached in the exaltation of his 
sudden deliverance from obstinate gloom to radiant 
faith. 

Do not become unbelieving but believing. He was not 
an unbeliever, in the sense of distrusting the Lord 
who had been his Master. But he was on the way to * 
this through his fixed refusal to believe the new revela- 
tion of that Lord. Let him reverse the process of his 
mind, and instead of moving towards unbelief, move 
towards full belief. 

And so he did. But he must not be left to suppose 
that the real cause of his new and full belief is the grant- 
ing of his desire for a test, even to the limited extent 
to which he had availed himself of what was offered. 
He had demanded sight and touch; the Lord has 
offered Himself to both; Thomas does not seek to 
touch. He has seen ; that is enough. But that is not 
the real cause of his belief, any more than a similar 
wonder had been the cause of Nathanael’s belief long 
ago (i, 50) : Is it because thou hast seen me that thou hast 
believed ? Do you really suppose that the ground of 
your faith is your experience in this moment? No; 
of course not; it is grounded in that loyalty which 
made you ready to share your Master’s journey to 
death. This moment has done no more than release 
a faith which was ready, if it could find an occasion, 
to burst its inhibitions. 

Yet it is true that the most blessed state is that of a 
faith which- has no inhibitions to burst through. Just 
as it is best to believe that Christ is in the Father and 



392 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

the Father in Him by a direct apprehension of the 
Deity manifest in Him, whereas to believe for the 
works’ sake is a second-best (xiv, n), so it is most 
blessed to be able to believe in His Deity and triumph 
over death by direct apprehension, because as we 
dwell with Him we behold His glory: blessed are they 
who saw not and have believed. 

St. Peter wrote to Christians who, like ourselves, 
had had no opportunity to see the Lord, and used the 
expression “ Whom, not having seen, ye love; on 
whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye 
rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory ” 
(/ Peter i. 8). We have not seen. Do we believe? 
Do we love? Can we claim the blessing — the “joy 
unspeakable and full of glory ”? 

* 

The Conclusion 

30-31. Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of the dis- 
ciples, which have not been written in this book. But these have 
been written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of 
God, and that believing ye may have Life in his name. 

St. John has not attempted to give a complete 
account of the Lord’s life. There was much that He 
did which His disciples saw, and much of this had been 
already recorded. (The Fourth Evangelist was cer- 
tainly familiar with our Second and Third Gospels.) 
And nearly everything He did was a “ sign ” ; that is 
to say, it was an expression of a spiritual truth or power, 
to which it pointed. Among all the acts that might 
be recorded, St. John has chosen those which are 
written in his book, in order that we may find in them 
what he has found : that ye may believe that Jesus is the 
Christ , the Son of God, and that believing ye may have Life 
in his, name. 

That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Peter 
reached this belief at Caesarea Philippi; Martha con- 



CHAPTER XX 


393 

fesses it before the restoration of Lazarus to life 
(xi, 27). But the words mean more now; for men have 
“ crucified the Lord of glory ”, and if we preach Christ 
Jesus as Lord, we preach a Christ on a cross (7 
Corinthians ii, 8 ; II Corinthians iv, 5 ; I Corinthians i, 
23). We are to believe that the Kingdom of God was 
inaugurated — for this is the function of the Christ 
— by the Life and Death and Resurrection of Jesus; 
we are to believe that He is the Son of God, in whom 
we see the Father. 

Believe and have life. The two go together. “ He 
that hath the Son hath the Life; he that hath not the 
Son of God hath not the Life. These things have I 
written unto you, that ye may know that ye have 
eternal Life, even unto you that believe on the name 
of the Son of God ” (I John v, 12, 13). Indeed Life 
does not so much result from, but rather consists in 
the knowledge of God in His Son: this is the eternal 
Life , to know thee the only true God , and whom thou 
sendedst — Jesus Christ (xvii, 3). 

We are to have this Life in his name — in His 
manifested nature and character. There we find it; 
abiding there we enjoy it. 

“ This is the true God and eternal Life. Little 
children, guard yourselves from idols ” (I John v, 21). 




EPILOGUE 



CHAPTER XXI 


The Gospel as originally planned is now ended, and the 
motive of its composition has been stated : that ye may 
believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God , and that 
believing ye may have Life in his name (xx, 31). 

Yet to end there would be in a very real sense mis- 
leading. For the work of the Lord, which is at once 
the ground of faith in Him and the vindication of that 
faith, was in one sense incomplete. The victory was 
won ; but its fruits had still to be gathered. In respect 
of what the Lord actually accomplishes in the souls of 
men, the narrative of His earthly ministry can be no 
more than the record of “ all that Jesus began both to 
do and to teach, until the day in which he was received 
up ” (Acts i, 1). The Book of the Acts of the Apostles 
and the subsequent history of the Church tell us what 
Jesus went on, and goes on, both to do and to teach 
after the day in which He was received up. To com- 
plete the Gospel itself there is need of an indication 
of the principles of the Lord’s activity in His Body, 
the Church; this is now given in two narratives, of 
which the former speaks of the condition on which 
alone the work of disciples is effectual (1-14), while 
the latter speaks of the condition on which alone the 
commission to work for Christ is given (1 5-22). 

At the same time the opportunity is taken to answer 
two questions which were causing perplexity to that 
generation for which the Gospel was originally 
written. The first of these concerned the position in 
the Church occupied by St. Peter from the earliest 
days after the Ascension {Acts i, 15, etc.); the other 
concerned the apparent probability that the Lord’s 
Coming would not take place until the last of the 
Apostolic band was already dead, though He Himself 

397 



398 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

had said, “ There be some here of them that stand by, 
which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the 
kingdom of God come with power ” (Si. Mark ix, i). 
The Kingdom of God did come with power in and 
through the Crucifixion (see Introduction, pp. xxix- 
xxxi). But this had not been understood. When all 
the Apostles were dead except the Beloved Disciple, 
it was natural to connect this saying with him, and to 
suppose that to him it had been promised that he should 
not die till the final consummation; and the words 
used to St. Peter with a very different purpose were 
misinterpreted in this sense. It was important to 
fend off the disappointment that would arise when the 
Beloved Disciple died and the end was not yet. 

* 

(i) The Lord and the Body of Disciples (1-14) 

(a) The Work of the Disciples (1-11) 

(i) At their own Pleasure 

r-3. After these things Jesus manifested himself again to the disciples 
by the sea of Tiberias; and he did it in this way. There were 
together Simon Peter, and Thomas who is called the Twin, 
Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee and other 
of his disciples two. Then saith to them Simon Peter u I am going 
off to fish They say to him “ We too are coming with thee 
So they went out and got into the boat; and in that night they 
caught nothing. 

In spite of the great experiences recorded in 
Chapter XX the disciples have not yet found the new 
direction for their lives. They are returned to Galilee. 
The only change from the old days, before ever they 
heard the Baptist say, “ Behold, the Lamb of God ” 
(i, 29, 36), is that they are a company united by the 
fact of their discipleship. Here are Peter and the sons 
of Zebedee, as of old; one of the two unnamed is 
likely to have been Andrew; that makes the old 
quartet (St. Mark i, 16-19). But now there are also 



CHAPTER XXI 


399 

Thomas and Nathanael. There is nothing to do but 
return to the old occupations. Simon Peter, as so 
often, takes the lead. The word he uses is that which 
we have often translated “ go his way ”. It expresses 
a completely voluntary and self-chosen action ; it may 
be used of wilful choice or the fulfilment of a destiny, 
but it suggests that the “ going ” is an individual act; 
I am going off to fish. The others at once decide to 
join : We too are coming with thee. So they go on their 
self-chosen occupation — innocent, but self-chosen. 
Night was the best time for fishing; but in that night 
they caught nothing. The work which we do at the 
impulse of our own wills is futile. 

* 

(ii) At the Lord's Command 

4-1 1. But when dawn was now breaking, there stood Jesus on the 
beach; howbeit the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So 
Jesus saith to them, “ Children, have ye any meat? ” They answered 
him u No But he said to them “ Cast the net on the right side of 
the ship and ye will find So they cast, and no longer had they 
strength to draw it for the multitude of the fishes. So that disciple 
whom Jesus loved saith to Peter “ It is the Lord ”, So Simon Peter, 
having heard that it was the Lord, girt on his coat, for he was naked, 
and cast himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the 
dinghy (for they were not far from the land but about two hundred 
cubits) towing the net full of fishes. As soon then as they disem- 
barked on to the land, they see a charcoal-fire laid and fish laid thereon 
and bread. Jesus saith to them “ Bring of the fish which ye caught 
just now So Peter went aboard and drew the net to the land full 
of great fishes, a hundred and fifty three. And though there were 
so many, the net did not break. 

All that night they had toiled in vain. But when 
the early glimmer of dawn appears, they see a figure 
standing on the beach. It is still too dark for recogni- 
tion. He hails them as any casual passer-by might 
do, I have kept in the translation the words of the 
Revised Version, Children , have ye any meat? But I 
have done this only because I cannot find a phrase 



4 oo READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

which really gives the sense without falling below the 
dignity of the whole narrative. Bernard offers, “Boys, 
you have not had any catch, have you? ” which is 
exactly right in content but jars somewhat in tone. 
Anyhow, it is no more than a casual, friendly greeting, 
which does not in the least disclose the identity of the 
Speaker. 

So often the message of the Lord reaches us through 
some experience or acquaintance reckoned at the time 
as ordinary and commonplace. Only afterwards, and 
in the light of results, do we realise what or who was 
really in touch with us through the apparently common- 
place event or person. 

When the disciples answer No, the Stranger’s voice 
is heard giving a command or direction : Cast the net 
on the right side of the ship and ye will find. Advice 
so definite must represent knowledge, whencesoever 
derived; so they cast , and no longer had they strength 
to draw it for the multitude of the fishes. What is done 
in obedience to the Lord’s command, even though 
He who gives the command is not recognised, results 
in overwhelming success. 

Something convinces the Beloved Disciple, one of 
the sons of Zehedee (2), that the Stranger is the Lord. 
It is idle to speculate how he reached his conviction, 
but we notice that he who first believed the evidence of 
the Resurrection at the tomb (xx, 8) is he who first 
recognises the Lord in the figure dimly seen upon the 
beach. Simon Peter with characteristic impetuosity, 
seizes his coat and fastens it around his body, which 
he had stripped for working the boat and the nets, 
and casts himself into the sea to hurry to the shore. 
The other disciples, abandoning the effort to draw up 
their teeming net into the boat, get into the dinghy 
and tow the net to shore. 

On arriving they find that somehow provision has 
been made already (9). But Jesus bids them bring of 
the newly caught fish; so Peter gets into the dinghy 



CHAPTER XXI 


401 

where it is beached and drags the net, now attached to 
its stern, to dry land. They count the fish according 
to custom — a hundred and fifty three. It is perverse 
to seek a hidden meaning in the number ; it is recorded 
because it was found to be the number when the count 
was made. Yet the net did not break. The gift of God 
is always more than we can receive yet it never bursts 
the vessel which we can offer for its reception. 

* 

( b ) The Lord’s Gift of Sustenance 

12-14. Jesus saitli to them “ Come and break your fast ”. None of 
the disciples was bold to examine him “ Thou — who art thou? ” 
knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus cometh and taketh the bread 
and giveth to them, and the fish likewise. This is already the third 
manifestation of Jesus to the disciples after he was raised from 
the dead. 

When His disciples have obeyed Elis command, the 
Lord Himself offers them refreshment and sustenance. 
By this time none is eager to ask the Stranger who He 
is or to demand His authority for giving them orders. 
(The word for “ ask ” or “ examine ” implies cross- 
examination or searching enquiry.) They know it is 
their Lord, and awe in His presence keeps them silent. 
The Lord again, as of old, is their host. It is strongly 
suggested that the meal he offers consists partly of what 
He had himself prepared and partly of what the dis- 
ciples have brought to land. If so, the symbolism is 
true. The Lord refreshes us for His service by a gift 
which is in part derived from Him, in part the fruit of 
our own labour under His direction ; but it is all His 
gift, for the whole fruit of our labour is His, not our 
own, and we only enjoy it rightly or fully when we 
accept it as from Him. 

This is the third manifestation , that is, the third 
occasion on which the Lord was manifested; the first 
was Easter Day when he was manifested at the tomb 



402 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

(xx, 14-17), at Emmaus (St. Luke xxiv. 13-31), to 
Simon Peter (St. Luke xxiv, 34), to the assembled 
disciples (xx, 19-23). The second was a week later 
(xx, 24-29). This is the third. And this time St. 
Peter’s failure will be recalled and his commission 
renewed. 

* 

(2) The Lord and Individual Disciples (15-23) 

(a) The Restoration of St. Peter 

Before we consider the scene of St. Peter’s restora- 
tion, let us recall his history as a disciple up to this 
point as the Evangelists, and especially St. John, bring 
it before us. 

He did not find his own way to the Lord, nor did 
the Lord directly call him. He was brought by his 
brother Andrew. The Lord greeted him with the 
words Thou art Simon son of John; thou shall he called 
Rock-man (i, 42). Rock-man was the most unsuitable 
name for Simon as he was at that time. Thou art 
Simon; you are our friend called Simon, whom we all 
know as a loyal, generous, impulsive and unreliable 
man. Thou shalt be called Rock-man; one day — 
not at once, but in the future — he will earn a title 
which speaks of strength exactly at what was his 
weakest point. 

From that day, no doubt, Peter was a disciple, but 
had not yet been called to leave his livelihood to follow 
his Master. That came later, and the readiness with 
which he and others responded to the call, “ Come ye 
after me, and I will make you to become fishers of 
men” (St. Mark i, 17, 18) is accounted for by the 
earlier call and the phase of discipleship which it 
inaugurated. 

After the difficult discourse on the Bread of Life, 
when many of the disciples went back and walked no 
more with him, and the Lord said to the Twelve Do ye 



CHAPTER XXI 


403 

also want to go? it was Peter who rallied them with the 
declaration, Lord , to whom shall we go? Words of 
eternal Life hast thou (vi, 67, 68). 

Then there is the scene at Caesarea Philippi. In 
answer to the question “ Who say ye that I am? ” 
Peter answers “ Thou art the Christ” (St. Mark viii, 2 9). 
This draws the declaration from the Lord that he has 
earned his new name: “ Thou art Rock-man, and on 
this rock I will build my Church ” (St. Matthew xvi, 
18). The quality which will turn Peter’s weakness 
into strength is that on which the Church is to rest — 
the faith that Jesus is the Christ of God. But when the 
Lord goes on to say what manner of Christ He will 
be — “ the Son of Man must suffer ” — “ Peter took 
him and began to rebuke him ” (St. Mark viii, 32). It 
seems incredible. He has just hailed his Master as 
the Christ of God; and he “ took him and began to 
rebuke him ”. Peter acknowledges his Master as 
Christ, but the very quality of his loyalty leads him to 
protest against this notion of “ a Messiah on a cross ” 
(/ Corinthians i, 23). He will honour and follow his 
Lord; but that Lord must so behave as to deserve his 
honour ! Deep in Peter’s loyalty is a vein of self-will. 

It is sadly easy for passionate loyalty to have this 
defect — a mortal defect, for it earns from the Lord 
the name of Satan (St. Mark viii, 33). Our passions 
are mostly egoistic if they rise to the fully personal 
level at all; the greater part of them are uncontrolled 
animality. But love and loyalty are personal; and 
when these are passionate they are as a rule possessive 
or self-assertive in some degree. We all need urgently 
the warning of Peter’s failure at this point. 

We find the same quality at the scene of the Feet- 
washing (xiii, 1-10). At first Peter wishes to refuse 
the service which the Lord offers. His loyalty pro- 
tests. Then when he is told If I wash thee not , thou 
hast no fart with me he wants more than was offered: 
not my feet only, hut also my hands and my head. Loyal, 



40 4 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

yes; generous* yes; but submissive, no. The one 
thing he cannot do is leave the Lord alone to do what 
He wants. It is this same self-will at the heart of his 
loyalty that will lead to his great failure. 

Then comes the prediction of the desertion of all 
the disciples. Peter is vehement; whatever others may 
do, he will not fail. “ Although all shall be offended, 
yet will not I ” (St. Mark xiv, 29). My life for thee 1 
will lay down (xiii, 37). It was true. He was ready to 
fight for his Master when fighting meant certain death 
(xviii, 10). But another test awaited him, when there 
would be no thrill of adventure, no hot blood, but a 
chill atmosphere, a mocking maid-servant, a jeering 
crowd — at the hour of cock-crowing. What happened 
then has not yet been wiped out. 

¥ 

5-x 9. So when the breakfast was over, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, 
44 Simon, son of John, Iovest thou me more than these ? 99 He saith 
to him “ Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I am thy friend 99 . He 
saith to him 44 Feed my Iambs He saith to him again, a second 
time, 44 Simon, son of John, Iovest thou me? ” He saith to him 
44 Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I am thy friend He saith to 
him 44 Tend my sheep 99 . He saith to him the third time 44 Simon, 
son of John, art thou my friend ? 99 Grieved was Peter because he 
said to him the third time 44 Art thou my friend? ” And he said to 
him 44 Lord, all things thou knowest; thou seest that I am thy 
friend ”. Jesus saith to him 44 Feed my sheep. Amen, Amen I say 
to thee, when thou wast younger, thou girdedst thyself and walkedst 
where thou wouldest; but when thou art grown old, thou shalt 
stretch forth thy hands, and another will gird thee and carry thee 
where thou wouldest not.” — (And this he said signifying by what 
manner of death he should glorify God; and having said this he 
saith to him) — 44 Follow me 


1 Some scholars have urged that there is no distinction to be drawn 
between the two words for “ love Thus Bernard gives a whole list of 
passages where they are interchangeable. For myself I do not believe that 
any two words ever have precisely the same meaning; there is always some 
difference of tone or suggestion. But, whether that is so or not, in the 
passages quoted by Bernard one or the other of the two words occurs 
alone, not both together. It is not reasonably conceivable that both should 
be used together, and that with an alternation which challenges attention. 




CHAPTER XXI 


40S 

The Lord has by a “ sign ” illustrated the blessing 
which rests on work done in obedience to His com- 
mand. He has refreshed His friends with sustenance 
which is, in part, the product of their own labour. 
Then He turns to the eager-hearted follower whose 
loyalty so sadly failed as a result of the self-will that 
was intermingled with it. He had once said, “Although 
all shall be offended, yet will not I ”; he had claimed 
a devotion more sure than that of his fellow-disciples. 
Does he claim that still? Simon , son of John , lovest 
thou me more than these? Peter says nothing of the 
comparison with others; on that score he can make 
no claim. Nor does he claim to love his Lord with 
that self-forgetful love which Christ had made known 
to men and to stand for which the Greek word — 
Agape — had been drawn out of its commonplace 
obscurity. Human love is a tainted thing, tinged with 
lust or with the possessiveness which is self-will and is 
the spring of jealousy. The words commonly used for 
love are not free from those associations. So this word 
which had no bad suggestiveness because it had none at 
all was used to stand for the pure and holy love of God 
as Christ disclosed it, to gather from that disclosure 
its associations and suggestions. Peter will not use 
which word of himself; he uses the word of simple 
friendship ; Tea, Lord, thou knowest that I am thy friend. 
That at least, in spite of everything, he can claim. 
Because he can make that claim, the commission can 
be given : Feed my lambs. 

if their meaning is quite the same. Andrew Bradley remarks that for many 
purposes the two words “ steed ” and ** horse ” mean the same thing; but 
if they are used together, their difference becomes evident, and to transpose 
them may have a ludicrous result: e.g. 

“ Bring forth the steed.” The steed was brought. 

In truth he was a noble horse. 

So it may be with the two words used here. I have alluded to the dis- 
tinction in commenting on xvi, 27* But while I think the distinction is 
relevant there, where only one word is used, I have no doubt about it here 
where both are used. 



4 o 6 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

Then the Lord repeats the question, but this time 
without any addition of comparisons. Whether more 
or less than others, does Peter love his Lord? Simon , 
son of John , lovest thou me? Peter still gives the same 
answer: Tea, Lord , thou knowest that I am thy friend. 
And again the commission is given : Tend my sheep. 

Once more the Lord questions Peter, and this time 
he changes the form of question and adopts Peter’s own 
word : Simon, son of John, art thou my friend? Is even 
that true? Peter was grieved, not only because, recall- 
ing the threefold denial, the Lord puts His question 
for the third time, but also because this time He 
questions even that lesser claim which Peter had 
made. He pleads not only the Lord’s unerring know- 
ledge of what is in him, but his own manifest sincerity : 
Lord, thou knowest ail things; thou seest that I am thy 
friend. 

Thou seest ; elsewhere I have translated this Greek 
word “ recognise In the other two answers, and 
here in the first phrase, Peter uses the word that stands 
for knowledge of facts or truths; here he uses the 
word for acquaintance and appreciation. Before the 
Lord is His devoted, loyal and deeply penitent disciple : 
thou seest that I am thy friend. 

We too have often failed our Lord; we stand before 
Him ashamed and penitent. Can we say with Peter’s 
confidence Thou seest that I am thy friend ? If we can, 
the commission to do the Lord’s work may be given 
to us. We may not be able to say that we love Him 
with love like that which He has shewn to us ; but we 
must be able to say “ I am thy friend ”. We must 
have taken our stand on His side, with full intention 
to be constant in our devotion. We may fail through 
weakness ; but if that be all we shall hear Him saying, 
Let not your hearts he troubled. Trust God and trust me 
(xiv, i). If we can sincerely say we are His friends, 
He is ready to let us serve Him by serving His people. 

The Lord’s questions follow a declining scale: 



CHAPTER XXI 


407 

Lovest thou me more than these ? — Lovest thou me? — 
Art thou my friend? But the commissions follow an 
ascending scale: Feed my lambs — Tend my sheep — 
Feed my sheep. The change of expression shews that 
some change of meaning is intended. Feed my lambs: 
the first charge is to supply the needs of the young of 
the flock — a task of infinite responsibility, but not, 
as spiritual work is reckoned, conspicuously difficult, 
for the lambs are ready to accept the sustenance offered 
to them. Tend my sheep: the second charge is to 
exercise general guidance of the flock, including its 
mature members, a task for one of greater experience 
than the first. Feed my sheep: the third charge is the 
hardest — to supply the needs of the mature members 
of the flock; for it is less easy to discern their needs 
than those of the “ lambs ”, and they often have no 
knowledge of what their own needs are, or, still 
worse, suppose that they know when in fact they 
do not. 

My sheep. The words come back to mind : — The 
sheep hear his voice, and his own sheep he calleth by name 
and leadeth them out . . . the sheep follow him because 
they know his voice. But a stranger will they not follow, 
but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice 
of strangers . . . the sheep that are mine hear my voice , 
and I know them, and they follow me (x, 3, 4, 5, 27). 
Whether we seem to His sheep their shepherds or 
strangers will depend on whether they can recognise 
our voice as His; and this in turn will depend on the 
reality of our claim — thou knowest that I am thy friend. 

Once more the familiar and solemn words are 
used Amen, Amen I say to thee. When they were last 
spoken to Peter they heralded the prediction of his 
denial (xiii, 38). Now they herald the prediction of 
his martyrdom. Once Peter had been wilful and head- 
strong. His impulses were generous, but he followed 
them as much because they were his as because they 
were generous. He chose his own path and walked 



4 o8 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

where he would. As the ardour of youth cools and 
the feebleness of age comes on, all this will change. 
He will stretch forth his hands as he gropes along 
unknown ways, and others will carry him against his 
choice. The words as spoken foreshadow a compulsion 
laid upon him, but not necessarily more than this. 
The Evangelist, writing with St. Peter’s martyrdom 
in mind, sees in them a direct reference to it. For St. 
Peter’s hands, like those of his Lord, were stretched 
out upon a cross. When thou shall be old, thou shall 
stretch forth thy hands, and another will gird thee and 
carry thee where thou wouldest not. Follow me. 

Follow me. A few days before the Lord had said 
Whither I go thou canst not follow me now, but thou 
shalt follow afterwards (xiii, 36). Now he says Follow 
me. For it is possible now. The outward presence of 
the Lord is being withdrawn ; the power of the Holy 
Spirit is given and will soon take possession; Peter, 
reckless and cowardly by turns, fighting in the garden 
but denying in the High Priest’s court, will stand forth 
before the rulers of his people in the serenity of imper- 
turbable courage — Rock-man indeed. 

Yet it is with reference, not to what he will do, but 
to what others will do to him, that the Lord says with 
so solemn an emphasis Follow me. (Is it not true that 
in a certain deep sense nothing which the Lord did 
was so important as what others did to Him? No 
doubt His endurance is what gave its quality to the 
event; but His passivity is more powerful than His 
acts. He reigns from the Tree.) Will Peter follow 
to the end? 

Yes, to the very bitter end; yet even so, if the 
legend is trustworthy, there lingered to the end some 
of the old weakness which makes Peter so unfailing a 
spring of encouragement to most of us. The example 
of Paul is of little use to me; I am not a hero. The 
example of John is of but little more use; my love 
is so feeble. But Peter is a source of constant 



CHAPTER XXI 


409 

encouragement, for his weakness is so manifest, yet 
because he was truly the friend of his Lord he became 
the Prince of the Apostles and glorified God by his 
death. 

The story tells how Peter escaped from his Roman 
prison the night before his martyrdom and was flee- 
ing along the Appian Way when he met a familiar 
Figure bearing a cross. “ Domine , quo vadis ? ” — “ Lord, 
whither goest thou?” “I am going to Rome to be 
crucified afresh.” Peter toned and was found in his 
prison when the guards came for him in the morning. 
History or legend? We do not know. If history, then 
fact or dream? We do not know. The story shows 
that the early Church thought of Peter as still shewing 
to the end some of the weakness of Simon, son of 
John; but the love of the Lord led him captive at 
the last. 

* 

( b ) The Vocation of St. John 

St. Peter has received his commission and his call; 
it is a call to follow by difficult stages to the complete 
offering of the will that was by nature so self-assertive. 
Close beside the Lord is the Beloved Disciple. Is 
there any call for him? The Lord, it would seem, has 
illustrated the command Follow me by the gesture of 
moving away from the main body of the disciples, 
and as Peter followed, the Beloved Disciple moved 
with him. So Peter turns to “ follow ”, and his 
attention is caught by the presence of this one of 
all their company whom they knew to be the most 
intimate. 

20-23. Turning about, Peter seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved 
following — who also leaned back on his breast at the supper and 
said “ Lord, who is it that is betraying thee? ” So having seen him 
Peter saith to Jesus “ Lord, this man, what of him? ” Jesus saith 
to him “ If I will that he abide while I am coming, what is that to 
thee ? Do thou follow me.” So this saying went forth among the 



4 io READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

brethren that that disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to 
him that he would not die, but “ If I will that he abide while I am 
coming what is that to thee? ” 

As' the Lord moves, the Beloved Disciple has moved 
too; it was natural that one so intimate as the incident 
at the Last Supper proves him to have been, should 
keep close to his Master without any special command. 
But Peter’s curiosity is aroused. His own future has 
been declared; what of John’s? 

The Lord does not answer speculative questions or 
satisfy curiosity. To the question “ Are they few that 
be saved? ” His answer was “ Strive to enter it by 
the narrow door ” (St. Luke xiii, 23). So when St. 
Peter asks about the future in store for his fellow- 
disciple, the reply is If I will that he abide while I am 
coming , what is that to thee? Do thou follow me. Our 
duty is to obey, without waiting to know what orders 
or promises may be given to others. 

Incidentally the recalling of this episode makes it 
possible to explain and dissipate the rumour that St. 
John would survive till the expected Second Coming. 
Nothing of the kind had been promised. All that was 
said was that even if this were the Lord’s intention for 
St. John, this was no business of St. Peter’s ; his busi- 
ness was plain : Do thou follow me. 

Abide while I am coming. This translation ex- 
aggerates the suggestion of the original, but the sugges- 
tion is there. The Coming of the Lord is, from the 
time of the Passion, permanent present fact. “ He 
cometh with the clouds ”; that is present. “ Every 
eye shall see him ”; that is future. 

So the story of this Gospel ends with a little group 
standing apart from the company of the disciples. It 
consists of three: the Lord of love; the disciple in 
whom self would be offered; and the disciple in whom 
self would be forgotten. 

If we are to enter into the Life to which the Lord 
Jesus invites us, the self in us must be eliminated as a 



CHAPTER XXI 41 1 

factor in the determination of conduct; if possible, let 
it be so effaced by love that it is forgotten ; if that may 
not be, let it be offered. For if we are to come to the 
Father , self must be either offered or forgotten. 

* 

POSTSCRIPT 

(3) The Final Testimony 

The Gospel proper is ended. The Evangelist, 
whom we take to be John the Elder, an intimate 
disciple of John the Apostle, adds a brief note of testi- 
mony to the reliability of John the Apostle’s witness, 
which lies behind this Gospel. 

24, 25. This is the disciple who bears witness of these things and who 
wrote these things, and we know that his witness is true. And there 
are also other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be 
written every one, I suppose that even the world itself would not 
contain the books written. 

This is the disciple who bears witness of these things: 
so the Beloved Disciple is still living when the Elder 
composes the Gospel. And who wrote these things ; he 
is the real author; and very likely himself wrote or 
dictated parts of what is presented in the Gospel. We 
know that his witness is true. The Elder could say this 
because he knew his teacher, and because he had tested 
and proved his witness, probably by comparison with 
the witness of others, certainly by the test of life 
and of spiritual communion with the crucified and 
risen Lord, y, . A IWAffAh "AA 

It is only part of the story that is here set forth, 
as was said at the close of the Gospel as first planned 
(see xx, 30, 3 1). Now the Elder, who has written till 
these closing sentences under the direct influence of 
the Apostle and has handled the sublimest themes 
with severe and unbroken restraint, permits himself one 



412 READINGS IN ST. JOHN’S GOSPEL 

touch of hyperbole: for to tell the whole story of 
Jesus’ love and power would exhaust the capacities of 
the universe. 


O Lord Jesus Christ, thou Word and Revela- 
tion of the Eternal Father, come, we pray thee, 
take possession of our hearts and reign where thou 
hast right to reign. So fill our minds with the 
thought and our imaginations with the picture 
of thy love, that there may be in us no room for 
any desire that is discordant with thy holy will. 
Cleanse us, we pray thee, from all that may make 
us deaf to thy call or slow to obey it, who, with 
the Father and the Holy Spirit art one God, 
blessed for ever. Amen. 


THE ENJ5 


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